Every industrial age always has its big economic driver. Human existence has witnessed the contribution of stone, coal, agriculture, steel and recently, within the past century, crude oil. The turn of the millennium offers us a new hope.
Nigeria is at a dire stance, our economy is shrinking because of falling oil prices. While a hope of price rebound is expected, the nation cannot wait or bank on that. Agriculture, our first economic love long abandoned, requires an average of four years for economic boom. Our erstwhile mining economy has not had a better story either, not then or now. Power is poor, infrastructure is not our forte and the recent government mass attack on corruption and fines imposed by regulators surely has got some minds thinking. All these moves are being watched closely by those outside who know the ripeness of our Nigeria. Are they seeing something we are not yet seeing?
Against the backdrop of these seeming woes is a fast rising opportunity – TECH. This opportunity is not entirely dependent on power or infrastructure. Its core resource is ideas and innovative minds – resources Nigeria has well over fifty million of. This opportunity powers mega employers and revenue generators like Facebook, Apple, Google, Alibaba, Jumia, Konga, MTN and a host of others.
The recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos Switzerland gave it a quick glance. Judging by contribution to GDP, a report by CNBC stated that the agricultural sector contributed 35 per cent to GDP prior to rebasing, but is now only estimated to account for 22 per cent. Meanwhile, the services sector’s contribution increased from 29 to 52 per cent. Telecoms had a jump from 0.9 to 8.7 per cent.
The former Minister of Communications Mrs Omobola Johnson noted that the Nigerian telecoms sector, being one of the fastest growing markets in the world, continues to attract significant foreign direct investment, with an estimated additional $6 billion invested between 2011 and 2013. The future of this, she alluded, is improved broadband services, internet penetration and reduced cost of use for internet users. The rise of mobile technology is another aspect to consider. Within the last ten years, Nigeria has become a hot destination for smartphones and PCs. This period also witnessed the rise of local manufacturers like Omatek, Inye a local smartphone made by Saheed Adepoju to name a few.
In the government’s strategic plan for broadband growth, it wants to deepen penetration from 6 percent in 2013 to 18 percent by 2018. This at least shows government’s direction and plan. However we are quick to ask from experience if this plan won’t end in paper as other plans in education, agriculture, mining and petroleum had ended.
While we await government to do what it can, the onus lies on the millions of youths employed, unemployed, educated and illiterate to see the potential technology has in stock. The Computer Village in Ikeja is just an example of economic empowerment. App builders are another bunch. They even now enter competitions where funding is provided for their ideas which leads to start-ups and enterprises – take Jason Njoku’s Iroko TV, Ofili’s Okadabooks, Afrinolly as examples. Ecommerce is booming with the likes of Konga, Jumia, Kaymu and Yudala. Mobile banking and everything mobile is enabling how we make payments and how farmers get agro news.
The world is no longer ahead of us, for once Africa – Nigeria in particular – has an opportunity to dictate pace. Oil prices may not favour us, we may have religious and cultural issues – which government should tackle vehemently but economic progress lies in thinking ‘tech’ and ‘small scale’. SMEs are the backbone of economies; for the umpteenth time, this can’t be over emphasized.
Government’s support needs to focus on SMEs, major enterprises that are technology economic drivers, enablers that help smaller players to thrive especially within the telecoms industry.
Focus should be to revitalize the energy and transport sectors chiefly while not forgetting to lay the foundations of tomorrow right through quality education.
Africa is rising, the sun has set on the West, it is rising on Africa. We have to act now.
Photo Credit: Siemens