17 January 2013

Nigeria: Stakeholder Seeks Adoption of Local Content in ICT

The Federal Government has been urged to as a matter of urgency, enact and release a local content policy for the country this year.

Chief Executive Officer of Teledom Group, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, who made the call, told THISDAY in an interview that it was imperative for government to act now, owing to the perceived implications of non-use of local content from Nigeria, in developing the Nigerian information and communications Technology (ICT) sector, coupled with the continued loss of revenue to foreign countries, through importation of their products for use in Nigeria.

According to Ekuwem, the enactment of local content policy and its implementation, would put an end to importation of items that could be developed to standard in Nigeria and address the issue of capital flight, had made Nigeria lose so much money that could have been generated as revenue from local content development in the country.

Apart from addressing revenue loss and underdevelopment caused by overdependence on foreign goods, Ekuwem said strict implementation of local content policy would create jobs, wealth, reduce poverty and enhance productivity among Nigerians.

In technical parlance, local content development and adoption in the ICT industry, is the use of available components or materials or resources in the ICT industry that could be sourced in Nigeria. They include components of hardware, software, integrated technology, and physical structures like towers, masts, racks, cell site enclosures, as well as technical expertise.

"Government must articulate this policy and implement it faithfully and aggressively, and it must be formulated this year, if we must begin to imbibe the culture of local content development in our country," Ekuwem said.

He frowned on a situation, where there were still foreign brand-specific tenders in both federal and state procurement documents. "These are acts of unfair competition against local brands, and must be stopped," he added.

Nigerians, he said, must be encouraged by government to be enthusiastic in patronising made-in-Nigeria ICT goods, and that telecoms operators licensed and operating in Nigeria, should endeavor to use locally developed products in building their software and hardware infrastructures.

According to him, "There is a high propensity on the part of some foreign nationals who work in our ICT industry to want to bring in their fellow nationals in the name of non-availability of qualified Nigerians. This is a false claim. All they are doing is contribute to reducing unemployment in their respective home countries and populate same in Nigeria. That is why we must rise up to project and protect our fellow nationals who are very qualified to handle such positions."

The federal government had directed all government agencies to consider the patronage of local products, especially where such products are in conformity with the foreign standards. However, since the directive was given, no government agency took it seriously, because there was no law backing it up.

Last year, the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Prof. Cleopas Angaye had called for the compulsory patronage of local assembled computers like Omatek, Zinox, SpeedStar, Brian, among others, but the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, argued that such will stifle business relationship between government and foreign brands that have helped developed the Nigerian economy to its present level.

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