Local content; how to encourage production and patronage of local content is probably one of the most talked about subject in Nigeria’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector.
Several seminars, conferences and ICT events have been held in the past few years, where industry stakeholders continue to clamor for the immediate implementation of Nigeria’s local content policy. In fact, the federal government, a few years ago, mandated that all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) use only locally developed or produced ICT solutions and equipment.
However, it has become apparent that the focus on ‘local content’ promotion is geared mainly towards software solutions while hardware production is still somewhat ignored, as Nigeria heavily depends on China for technology hardware supply.
Data from the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) shows that Nigeria, with a population of over 180 million people has only about six functional local Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Listed on the NITDA website are; Brian, Zinox, VEDA, RLG global, BETA computers and Coscharis Technologies. Sadly, it seems that Omatek computers has stopped operating since the death of Florence Seriki, its founder and CEO.
This is a huge difference in numbers compared to the over 100 registered corporate members of software practitioners recorded by the Institution of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) in 2017.
Paul Uzoechina, Admin Secretary, ISPON told BusinessDay that “the list of local software developing companies is quite exhaustive and a good number of applications developed by our members are currently used in banks, financial institutions, MDAs and other organisations.”
Apart from the earlier mentioned popular OEMs that assemble hardware technology in the country, smaller hardware startups have been stifled by several factors including government policies, funding, importation restrictions and the inability to produce refined inventions that meet global standards.
With the very few number of indigenous IT assemblers, it is no surprise that patronage of laptop and desktop computers and mobile phones is still largely foreign.
According to Pius Okigbo, Past President of ISPON, “We have to begin to look for a way to start manufacturing the basic components needed and there are a certain number of things that must be in place to help us begin that step of producing basic components.”
Okigbo told BusinessDay that, “the manufacturing of electronic components in Nigeria would still be a bit of a challenge because there are some things that are required like power which is an absolute necessity. For some of these equipment, you cannot turn on the system and there would be a power outage. We need 24 hours’ electricity generation, so until we can get steady power, then the government can begin to enforce the kind of electronics that can be manufactured locally.”
Last week, Zinox Technologies Ltd announced its plans to expand its hardware assembly and production capacity with the acquisition of a 129,166.925 square feet warehouse in Ikeja Lagos.
The company also said that it was considering the deployment of robotics in handling the certification processes in the new assembly plant where devices of other multinational OEMs will be assembled in a bid to domesticate technology and generate employment opportunities for many unemployed but skilled Nigerians.
Although this new plan has been applauded by many industry stakeholders, as Zinox which has over the years endured the peculiar challenges that have stifled many businesses in Nigeria’s technology sector, will significantly boost its assembling capacity and target the future of technology by creating products for the savvy consumers in areas such as Internet of Things (IOTs), Robotics, Artificial Intelligence etc, some believe that the Nigerian market is mature enough to go beyond computer assembling.
Chijioke Anthony Eke, Co-founder, Sidmach Technologies, told BusinessDay in an interview a while ago that; “most people have smart phones and smart devices but none is made in Nigeria and the challenge before us is to find a way, over the next few years to begin to manufacture these devices, not just to assemble because we can see the effect of assembling.
“Those who assembled IT systems like servers, desktops, laptops are huffing and puffing because the market is not there. Someone needs to be in control. We must go beyond that with the active cooperation of government, and let them know that it is time to deliberately develop the indigenous IT market,” Eke added.