Over the years, some Nigerian ICT industry key players have been actively involved in advocating and evangelizing the need for content development. Are we realistically making progress in this regard? I can vehemently say that there are a lot of plans and strategies put in place to at least have 50 percent of local content development in Nigeria. I doubt if there are strict adherence to this plan. It is sacrosanct we start developing the implementation process, we can’t be talking about same issue every year, haba!.
Annually, we spend billions of Naira in organizing ICT conferences, seminars, and fora; it does not end there. What happened to all the recommendations and suggestions on how to make local content development a reality? Sadly, foreign brands continues to lead the Nigerian ICT market regarding content and in the process making huge money for the owners
Meanwhile, data show that Nigeria loses about $2.8 billion yearly due to continued importation of ICT hardware and services. It means we concede about 70 percent of the country’s technology market to foreign brands, perhaps our apathy for locally made products. Although, the value of Nigerian ICT hardware and services is estimated to be at $39.7 billion in 2014, while forecast to grow to $144 billion by 2020. These statistics and amongst other reasons should be able to compel the government to start implementing policies that will bring recognition to indigenous creativity.
Apparently, the development of local content cannot be overemphasized because; local content seeks to achieve the development of local skills, technology transfer, use of local human resources and local manufacturing. The direct and indirect impacts create incremental value for Nigeria as a nation. We should be seeing consistent utilization of Nigerian human and material resources for the provision of goods and services in the ICT, thus maintaining the sector with acceptable quality standards to stimulate the development of indigenous capacities.
Considering the rate of globalization, all hands must be on deck ranging from the various institutions to all industry key players to ensure that Nigeria stays competitive fulfil local demand, given the wide availability of information technology created to serve markets worldwide. As the ICT industry in Nigeria continues to be more significant, we cannot overlook local content development.
Reports released on November 21, 2016 by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) state that telecommunications contributed N1.398 Trillion representing 1.11percent addition to the GDP. Although this figure is slightly nosedived compare to the N1.5 trillion recorded in quarter 2 of 2016, however, industry players believe that the telecommunications sector remains the toast of the economy.
Put simply, Dr. Omobola Johnson made some frantic efforts to get local content development into a realistic and strategic perspective. During her tenure, she hinted plans by the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology to grow local content in the sector by over 50 per cent in 2017.
Although, in a move to achieve that, she inaugurated a seven man committee responsible for developing local content delivery in ICT sector. Now, the question is, can we have 50 percent of the local content before the end of 2017? I beg to express my doubts.
The Ministry introduced guidelines on the local content requirements for companies within the ICT ecosystem for them to comply with. The overall objectives and goals of the issued guidelines were to help in the restructuring process, developing strong local ICT industry by driving indigenous innovation, and establishing intellectual property regulation and protection standards.
It appears that those guideline were sidelined by some foreign companies, they should help to create an enabling environment for developing local content, at least by complying with the local content guidelines. As at 2015, it was observed that some of the companies were not compliant to the policy. It was on that note that the ministry again through NITDA issued a final notice to companies to comply with the local content guidelines. However, this time around the guidelines required these foreign companies to register their entities with the Corporate Affairs Commission and promote local content value creation.
To further elucidate, the local content guideline, however, expects all multinational companies to outline and present details of their Nigerian content programs from inception of the rules. Thus, providing for all companies to submit plans to the NITDA for development of human capital and recruitment of local engineers.
Although, the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology had made it clear that the development of local content development remains a major focus, and to that effect unveiled a blueprint that will see to its implementation. This is a good vision for the Ministry, the policies are there, let’s just start enforcing implementation.
Let me quote Abdul-Raheem Adebayo Shittu, Minister of Information Communication and Technology
“The Local Content Development Policy would be implemented to protect domestic players in the industry and the ministry would galvanize right policies that would see to the need of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs). The government’s role is to provide an enabling environment within a free market economy. The Federal Government has expressed its readiness to boost local content in the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector to make it compete favourably in the global market”.
Further, NITDA is also making efforts, NITDA is laying on regulation, local content development and capacity building. I could easily say that NITDA is making frantic efforts to create, review existing policies and guidelines.
According to Dr. Isa, the review or creation in terms of existing policies will enable NITDA to regulate the sector in line with the highest global standards. “We are committed to ensuring that the proliferation of fake and substandard ICT products and services in the country is eliminated or at least significantly curtailed”.
To conclude this piece, I would say let’s start doing the real job which is implementation of local content policy.