Despite her economic situation, Nigeria spends over N793 billion ($2.6 billion) annually on importation of information and communications technology (ICT) equipment, the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Isa Ali Pantami has said.
Pantami who made the disclosure at a technology forum in Lagos recently, said the trend in importation of ICT equipment into the country is on the rise and could hit N44.835 trillion ($147 billion) by 2020, if it remained checked.
Besides, he said, the trend would impact negatively on Nigeria’s local content development, since a lot of local equipment manufacturers would suffer defeat and loss of businesses as their products would not be patronised.
“If you look at the amount of money we spend annually on the importation of goods and services of ICT you will be amazed. It is approximately around $2.6 billion annually and this amount is projected to reach around $147 billion in 2020. It is almost six times our current budget. And that is why we are putting more pressure on our local currency (the Naira). There is no strategy on developing our local content. We are focused on sourcing forex and importing something into our nation without cross-checking whether we have it in our nation locally or not,” Pantami said.
He insisted that Nigeria would continue to lose huge amount of money to capital flight, if the trend persists, and called for the right policy implementation to address the ugly trend.
He said ICT regulation and the promotion of local content remained essential to sustaining real growth and the building of indigenous capacity for Nigeria.
“Without regulation, you cannot in any way promote our local content; you cannot in any way encourage and motivate people to patronise locally developed products, and this has to change fast in order to protect our local industries,” Pantami said.
Industry stakeholders who supported the views of Pantami, blamed the situation on weak enforcement of government policies, which they said could be good and practicable, but lack the willpower to implement and control.
One of the stakeholders, who is the President of the Institute of Software Partitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Mr. Olorogun James Emadoye blamed the federal government for policy inconsistencies and poor implementation. He recalled that the federal government, through the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette, wrote a letter with Ref No SGF/OP/1/S.3/VII/795, to head of civil service commission, ministries department and agencies (MDAs) of government, on the need to patronise made -in -Nigeria products, including procurement of locally assembled computers and locally developed software. He said the letter directed all federal MDAs to comply with the directive, but expressed deep dissatisfaction that such directive was never implemented. The situation, he said, has grounded several local manufacturers of ICT products and equipment in the country, whereas importation of ICT equipment still thrives in the country.
Emadoye therefore called on government to expedite action in putting in place, policies and the right implementation that would support local content development in a sector where there are willing and talented people that could develop ICT equipment with global standard and best practice.