One thing that scares me the most in Nigeria is the alarming rate of unemployment and lack of opportunities. Nigerians are generally hard-working and that is why they usually do well in countries where they are legal residents and it is no different in technology -Nigerian developers, designers, and other important creatives are also highly sought after globally.
This is one of the reasons the ICT Clinic column, (which will be 10 years old in 2023) is focused on promoting Tech advancement and hopefully, getting more highly skilled jobs created in the process. The reason for this level of consistency is my conviction that Africa’s chance to attain greatness is dependent on its ability to leverage innovation and digital technology.
Not only have I written multiple articles about this conviction of mine, but I have also taken it a step forward by becoming a very active participant within the technology and innovation ecosystem. Through active participation in organisations such as Founder Institute, Innovation Support Network, Nigeria Internet Registration Association, and a few others, I have contributed and continue to contribute my quota in helping young founders launch their startups and attract investments while building thriving enterprises and ultimately deepening the Nigerian economy. My aim, then as now, has always been to drive the adoption of technology in Nigeria.
In September 2016, I published an article in my ICT Clinic column titled ‘Transformation or Wheelbarrow Pushing.’ It was a scathing piece as I tried to draw attention to the fact that the South-East was lagging behind in the areas of technology and innovation. At that time, the total investment in Nigeria’s tech industry had only attracted a few million dollars, with only a handful of tech startups operating back then in Lagos.
Fast forward to six years later, and the sector has become a force to be reckoned with in Africa and beyond. In 2021 alone, Nigerian startups attracted more than $1.4bn in investment, a whopping 30 per cent of total funding in Africa. Whatever may be said about Nigeria, we know that numbers do not lie. Nigerians have the talent, passion, energy to compete favourably in the global market. However, we cannot deny that there is an overconcentration of talent particularly in Lagos.
Sadly, from 2016 till date, tech adoption has remained abysmally low in the South-East, with activities led by private individuals who can only do so much without the enabling environment that the government is supposed to provide. My theory when it comes to watching tech take off in any city has always been simple; make your city more liveable particularly where you find a concentration of talents i.e. universities, build the right infrastructure, make sure the ease of doing business there is what it should be and you’d begin to notice a thriving tech community forming gradually.
My stance has always been towards encouraging an even advancement of technology across the country, while Lagos is an example of what an impressive tech scene is supposed to look like, it should not be the only recognised tech centre in a country of 200 million+ people. We have to consciously and deliberately encourage other regions to also leverage technology, launch and support new startups. In all fairness, no one can blame Lagos for exploiting the opportunities that come its way. This is why the ICT Clinic column remains one of the means through which I encourage more states to take advantage of the possibilities that technology presents.
For the South-East, Anambra State will go on to serve as a beacon of hope because the Governor-Elect, Professor Charles Chukuma Soludo, has stated that technology and the fourth industrial revolution will be the anchor for his administration and this much can be found in his manifesto which is in the public domain. The South East is in dire need of leaders like the Governor-Elect of Anambra that have the capacity to inspire positive change because unfortunately, technology will only thrive faster under smart leadership. Lagos took off because Fashola was futuristic enough to partner with the ecosystem and make Yaba the HQ of tech in the state. We need more leaders like these in the country – we need to save the soul of our country and prepare her for a future without oil. A future powered by knowledge and technology. There needs to be an awakening not just in the South East and across the entire country.
Nigeria is a country blessed with a large population majority of whom are youths; yet, the government is failing to invest in these young people who can be effective drivers of economic growth. What we do have now is a situation where young people are losing hope in the system and are getting more involved in cybercrimes and other vices owing to lack of skills, unemployment, and underemployment to name a few. Needless to say, there’s fire on the mountain and it is high time we put it out.
I strongly believe that one way to address this at the minimum is to provide jobs, more jobs and even more jobs. Young people in Nigeria have no say in the country’s economic decisions today and as such, they are often at the receiving end of poor and thoughtless decisions. Thus, we need leaders who are selfless, committed and open – qualities that will help them factor in the needs of the youths during all their decision-making processes.
I am super excited that finally, Anambra can serve as a gleaner of hope to other southern states when it comes to maximising the possibilities of the knowledge economy. With clearly defined goals such as investing in relevant infrastructure, facilitating programmes for digital skill development that will boost innovation, create jobs, encourage entrepreneurship, enhance social development, the incoming administration under Soludo can make the difference.
Let me reiterate that ‘our greatest strength lies in our human capital.’ As such, investing in human capital to unlock its potential for sustained economic growth should be the business of any progressive government.
Since 2013, this column has continued to canvass for technology advancement and quite frankly, the feedback has been phenomenal and far-reaching with elder statesmen, academia, policymakers, startups as well as youths, all contributing to the discourse either privately or publicly. Indeed, issues of technology, national development and the digital economy should be demystified such that an average citizen can understand how they are affected and to what extent they can contribute to the economic growth of the country.
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