Nigeria’s dependence on oil has drawn the irk of some stakeholders in the Information Communication Technology sector who believe that government have not paid attention to the sector that has contributed enormously to the countries’ Gross Domestic Product.
It is in view of this that Mr Olusola Teniola, president of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), proposed interventions and solutions to the Federal Government as means to leverage information and communication technologies (ICTs) as alternate to the present dependence on oil and gas for wealth creation.
Teniola made this submission while speaking during the recent BusinessDay Technology Conference 2016 with the theme, “Beyond Oil: ICT as a Viable Alternative for Wealth Creation’’ held in Lagos, stressing that ATCON has at different fora emphasized the urgent need to diversify partly or completely from depending on the revenue derivable from oil to an ICT driven economy to run our overall economy, “but we were not taken seriously then”.
The ICT sector, he said if properly developed could serve as a replacement for the Oil and Gas sector in boosting Nigeria’s economy.
“The price of oil has continued to fall uncontrollably and this poses a threat to our national economy therefore we have to look for a way out by devising viable policy pathways and economic sectors that will enhance national wealth and create employment for the populace, and one of the surest way out, is to give due attention to the development of the Information and Communication Technology sector, for example in India, China, Singapore and Brazil, ICT is used as the basis by these countries to develop innovative solutions, for example, cars that use electric solar power energy,” he said.
Teniola, said it was astonishing that the Federal Government does not give priority to the ICT sector when planning, despite its huge contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“We all know that more than 70% of ICT components are currently being imported from abroad. It has been established that this sector is contributing circa 8% to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Our members can no longer buy USD$ directly from CBN designated banks again and this has pushed the cost of doing business higher.
“Though the recent introduction of flexible FX mechanism is more than welcome, it is already too late for some of our members.”
He said that, to stem the imbalance in the supply and demand of foreign exchange, Federal Government needs to consider and encourage the establishment of companies that manufacture these components (or assemble them) in Nigeria with some incentives and for government to further sponsor ICT parks.
He stated that educational policies must be refocused adding that “Today in Nigeria, the number of people who want to study science related courses are small (and in most cases reducing) in relation to students who want to study commercial or social science related courses. The trend painted above can never solve our challenges, therefore, we need to begin to redirect the focus of students on the need to study science related courses.
“The Federal Government should make studying of science courses interesting by providing a conducive learning environment and state of the art laboratory equipment for students.”
The Federal Government, he said should begin to focus more on other alternative means of generating income and their focus should be on increasing government spending and budget allocation to funding the ICT sector for the purpose of making its products and services exportable, thereby allowing it to contribute to our foreign earnings.
“In order for the ICT sector to supplement or replace the Oil and Gas sector, policies which favour the sector must be put in place. It should be emphasized that the petroleum industry which used to be the cash cow for our nation (from a foreign exchange earning perspective) is not doing so well right now and this is a global issue that will take some time to recover. The direct implication of this is that we may not be able to finance our budget without resorting to further government borrowing. ICT can as a matter of fact serve as the new cash cow for the country provided the right polices are put in place,” he emphasized.
Commenting on broadband as an Enabler, the ATCON helmsman said “The deployment of broadband will make the economy of our dear nation better but, Government at all levels is not enabling this. Some of the challenges confronting the nation-wide deployment of broadband in Nigeria are as follows: Multiply Taxation, Unbearable Cost of Rights of Ways, and Incessant destruction of Telecom Infrastructure.
If all these challenges are removed then ICT sector would conveniently serve as a perfect substitute and/or at the very least a complement for revenue derived from the Oil and Gas sector, and our dream as a nation for pervasive and ubiquitous broadband would soon become a reality in Nigeria. Broadband has the potential to solve the unemployment challenges which are confronting our economy if those obstacles just shared with you are removed. It would create new segments like e-medicine, e-education and so on for youth employment (as witnessed in India and other Pacific Rim based countries). I am certain and confident that with all these proposed interventions I’ve shared with you and solutions being put in place, we can safely say that the ICT sector could serve as a replacement (or a greater supplement) to the Oil and Gas sector in terms of revenue generation for our beloved country.”