Huawei, NIIA, Embassy of China advocate collaboration, policy harmonization for Digital Economy

The role of broadband development in stimulating growth, policy harmonization for enhancing ICT infrastructure and attracting investment, as well as human resource development are stressed as essential to achieving digital economy in Nigeria.

This was the outcome of a one-day conference themed Africa-China Cooperation in ICT and Digital Economy organized by The Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in collaboration with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Nigeria and Huawei Technologies Company (Nigeria) Limited. The conference was well attended by representative of government, foreign partners, and stakeholders in power and technology sectors at the Sheraton Abuja Hotel.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Lanre Osibona, Special Advisor on ICT to the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo Stated that there is an urgent need to overcome challenges facing the nation to leveraging ICT to fuel the fourth industrial revolution that brings about digital economy.

“Africa must develop its skills. We must know how to scale workforce and move away from business base outsourcing to knowledge base outsourcing. Data is the future and new hope. For us as a country we must invest heavily in capturing data.”

Also speaking at the conference was Dr. Zhon Pingjian, the ambassador of China to Nigeria, he stated that “China will continue to share its development opportunities with African countries and welcome them on board the train of China’s development.”

The conference featured discussions on policy issues with a view to propose a domestic approach to not only enhancing the strategic priority of ICT and penetration of fixed broadband, but also improving connectivity through cost-effective network deployment, and easing the development of local content such as e-commerce in accelerating economic growth.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Minister of Communication, Barrister Adebayo Shittu said Nigeria’s revolution in the ICT sector accounts for well over $32 billion in foreign direct investment over the last 15 years. Such investments in infrastructure has created an ICT backbone that powers various critical sectors of the economy such as Banking, E-commerce, Insurance, and Oil & Gas. He advocated the need for all stakeholders to strengthen the technology and innovation ecosystem by supporting the development of innovation hubs in partnership with the private sector.

“This conference provides the opportunity to jump start the critical game-changing steps needed to make Nigeria’s objectives a reality in digital economy. Beyond this conference, we must work to strengthen relationships and knowledge management platforms towards building the better and more digital future that we seek.”  Shittu Said.

Digitization, widespread adoption of digital technologies and applications by Corporates, Government and Consumers, is beneficial for an emerging economy like Nigeria. According to study by PWC, constrained digital economies can potentially realize a 0.5 percent increase in GDP per capita for every 10 percent increase in digitization. The study also highlights that digitization also has a significant impact on job creation in the overall economy: an increase of 10 percent in digitization reduces a nation’s unemployment rate by 0.84 percent.

Speaking at the event, Tank Li, Managing Director of Huawei Technologies Nigeria, stated that a robust ICT infrastructure is the bedrock for digital transformation in Nigeria, and to unleash Digital Economy potential in the country, issues of availability and affordability need to be addressed.

“In order to foster digital transformation of the economy, policies and programs to increase ICT infrastructure and ensure wide-spread coverage both in urban and rural areas should be prioritized to make voice and data services available; At the same time, strategic measures of infrastructure sharing, investment-friendly regulatory framework and preferential taxation policies are needed to reduce sites acquisition and broadband deployment costs in order to bring down the cost for users to really encourage application of ICT across the industries and the whole society.” Li said.

The conclusive take out from the conference was a call for a framework and policies from the government that will foster broadband Infrastructure development in Nigeria to help stimulate GDP growth. Also a need to continue to collaborate with private sector and foreign investors that help to drive innovation for scaling ICT in Nigeria.