‘Capital Flight in Software Industry Can’t Be Addressed By Fiat Orders’


Emma Okonji

Contrary to executive orders from the National Executive Council and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop the importation of foreign software like Oracle, SAP and Finacle, in order to put an end to capital flight in the Nigerian software industry, a local software expert, whose software is currently revolutionising the payment system, has said the situation cannot be addressed by fiat orders.

The Chief Executive Officer, Upperlink Limited, one of the licensed Payment Solution Service Providers (PSSPs) in the country, Mr. Segun Akano, who made the disclosure during an interview with THISDAY in Lagos, said: “Although Nigeria is losing billions of naira yearly to capital flight on the importation of foreign software, the solution to this kind of national challenge is not by fiat orders, but through the concerted efforts of local software developers to rise up to the challenge and develop software with some levels of international standard that will stand the test of time.”

He said aside developing indigenous software with international standard, such software must be relatively cheaper than the foreign developed software in order to attract good patronage.

He said , to achieve this, government and the private sector must invest in our infrastructure and processes. For example, he added: “Government can decide to use the Capability, Maturity Modeling Integration (CMMI) level three as a benchmark to measure the efficiency of any indigenous software application. Internationally, we have CMMI level five as the highest level for benchmarking foreign software, which has been attained by very few companies around the world, but CMMI level three is good enough to measure standards in Nigeria.”

He insisted that government cannot force business owners to use a particular software application through fiat orders because government wants to drive patronage of indigenous software, adding that what government can do is to invest in human resources and infrastructure and create the enabling environment for small businesses to thrive and become competitive.
He noted: “For Instance the PayChoice software solution from Upperlink that recently won CBN’s award is an indigenous software that took us some years to develop and today it can compete with any foreign software in the electronic payment space. So software developers must be competitive if they must gain relevance in the software industry.

“Nigeria has talented people with software skills, what these people need is little push to make the difference and this push must come from the government and the private sector. If all these are put in place, I see a situation where in the next five years, Nigeria will have a pool of software developers that can develop software that could attract international patronage,” Akano said.

He challenged the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), which is the body of software developers in Nigeria to collaborate with government agencies like the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), National Office of Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), and Ministry of Science and Technology, to encourage software development in the country by creating the right environment for young software developers to thrive. ISPON should be able to drive all these technology influencers to work and achieve great success in the software industry, using the CMMI certification benchmark. ISPON, in partnership with government agencies, should be able to list software companies that pass the CMMI certification and recommend such companies for patronage.

It is only when this is achieved that government could confidently tell all MDAs and banks to patronise indigenous software. Anything short of this initiative will only encourage software developers to continue to struggle on their own, which will not lead the county to any meaningful development, since investors want to see software companies that have government endorsement, Akano said.