Galvanizing the Nigerian youth digitally and ready to grow the GDP, significantly reduce youth restiveness and create wealth has been and perhaps remains a grave concern to the government in the past two decades. Recognising this pitfall, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through its constructive intervention has developed models to redirect the energy and potential of our youth into productive use.
Some of the significant areas of such intervention includes but not limited to; Entertainment sector, Agriculture, SME Entrepreneurs, Creative industry (fashion) and others.
No doubt, those sectoral interventions have yielded noticeable values – while the ambiguity remains. The noticeable uncertainty is that while the national population growth (currently put at 200 million) is surging at an exponential rate (projected to hit over 400million in 30 years); Government ICT development spending remains very low. Indeed, lagging behind those of other countries as demonstrated by studies on global index in ICT Investment targeted at youth employment and empowerment.
According to Frank Gens, IDC’s Vice-President and Chief Analyst in his keynote at the recent forum on ‘ICT investment 2019 and beyond’ – pursuant to the Theme: Multiplied Innovation: Scaling Technology Revolution in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa proclaimed as follows:
“In the next two years, the proportion of digitally determined organisations with fully integrated enterprise-wide technology architecture will grow from 34% to nearly 90%.” Furthermore, “By 2022, twenty-five percent (25%) of endpoint devices and systems worldwide will be executing AI algorithms, and between now and 2023, more than 500 million new Apps will be created – equaling the total that was built during the preceding 40 years”!
A decade ago, Dr. Leo Stan – Chairman Zinox Group had warned about the compounding effects of abysmal low investment in the emerging IT sector and poverty amongst Nigerian Youths. Further, he advocated adequate investment to build ICT capacities in the Youth and create wealth. In the absence of equitable government investment in the sector, Youths have abandoned the ICT landscape and migrated, searching for other ways to survive.
Many have ended in Lybia and can be found all over the world; while some have perished in the bid to cross the Atlantic Ocean to Europe! With the acknowledgement that the youth make up an estimated 65% of our population; only a digitally propelled economy can provide the appropriate employment, sustainable development and security of life for them.
The sum-total of the above analytics suggests that without combined massive ICT Investment spending by Government and Venture Capitalists in the ICT Industry for rapid digital transformation; the nation’s Agriculture loans will come to waste. This is because, only technology-driven model can entice the Youth to embrace full time agriculture.
That means that, on the long-term, the expected growth in Agriculture may result to a pipedream. Other compounding effects include but not limited to; deficit in education, health, food production, poverty alleviation, environmental renewal, transportation infrastructure and many more.
This, amongst others, is the consequences of granting loans to invisible businessmen who often abandon agriculture and divert the proceeds to importation and capital flight. Is that why our land borders have been shut down?
A 2018 report by Oluwatobi Opusunju indicates that; “Public sector information technology (IT) spend has plummeted in the last two years forcing global IT companies like Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco and others to rethink their presence in Nigeria, (IT Edge News.NG). According to recent reports by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU); Nigeria is ranked 15th in ICT spending on the continent.
Further, Nigeria spends a paltry 3.1% of her annual budget on ICT. It ranks 142 globally and 15th in Africa. The island nation of Mauritius tops the chart at 72 followed by Seychelles ranking 90 globally; according to the ITU report.
Those who should know say this trend has weakened the country’s ICT market in the last two years; making Nigeria to lag-behind among ICT compliant nations. In a wider sense, because government is the biggest spender in the economy, the large shrink in public spending on ICT has meant lower penetration of ICT across sectors.
In the public sector, ICT-enablement of government’s operations has slowed down.
“The economic depression has impacted negatively on the ICT procurement and in the public sector, government has virtually shied away from any major ICT project,” said Lagos based ICT analyst, Banjo Dare.
Apparently, ICT has the least priority in Nigeria for now; a situation industry watchers have described as worrying and which clearly negates the desire for economic diversification by the government. However, experts like Mr. Sunday Folayan, Past-President, Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) thinks government spending has not necessarily slowed down but a more cautious approach now exists to control ICT spending in the public sector as one of the steps to curtail fictitious ICT projects.
Also, it should be recognised that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) have firmed up strategies to ensure corrupt free IT procurement processes in the public sector. The belief within government is that ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) spend money on foreign ICT procurements excessively as an annual ritual to siphon public funds into private tills.
The procurement act which requires MDAs to seek IT procurement clearance from the NITDA is now being vigorously executed by the NITDA.
Informed Stakeholders like Dr. Ike Adinde last year observed that; “There’s a critical need and that need is urgent for a country like Nigeria to invest in building ICT capacity for the young people and that’s why DBI continues to innovate programmes that target the young people so that we fulfil our mandate in that area.”
Citing Gartner Inc, the global ICT intelligence group, he said worldwide IT spending in 2018 was projected to total $3.7 trillion; an increase of 4.3 percent from 2017 estimated spending of $3.5 trillion”.
Going forward, between 2020-2023, Government should make ICT investment a strategic imperative and urgent deliverable; especially now that the establishment of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy has emerged. With improved investment in the ICT Ecosystem, the sector can contribute about 21% to the national GDP.
The core focus is to promote a five-year strategic plan for Software development and Broadband Critical Information Infrastructure which are capable of providing more than five million jobs in five years and yielding a reliable revenue of at least $500million USD at an average yield of $100 million USD annually.