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Nigeria, India need closer ties to boost trade, ICT development, says Bhatnagar


R. K. Bhatnagar is the Director General, Telecom Equipment & Service Export Promotion Council (TEPC) in India. He leads the TEPC event in Kenya. ITU has identified him as eHealth expert to liaise with the ITUD Study Groups on the e-health study in honorary capacity. As part of the awareness initiative for the two-day, 2018 Indo-Africa ICT conference, which starts today in Nigeria, Bhatnagar in an online interview with ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, spoke on challenges confronting the African technology markets, solutions to them and of course, the ICT expo. Excerpts:

The Indo-Africa ICT Expo 2018 begins today in Nigeria, what does it plan to offer differently this year?
This time, there is more active participation of ICT stakeholders from Nigeria including the government of Nigeria. We hoped to extend and expand the relationship.

How has the previous expo impacted both India and Nigeria’s economy?
As a follow up of the previous expo, ICT industry of both countries is now closer. This is reflected in participation of more than 10 delegates from Nigeria in India Telecom 2018 event in February 2018 at New Delhi. It included the participation at Federal Government level, which witnessed the participation of Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu. He led the ICT industry to India. There was G2G meetings were also.

Going by the developments in the sectors, can we put a worth to the African ICT market?
Africa is among the faster growing markets worldwide! Improving macroeconomic indicators, conducive business environment, larger, younger and more affluent population, rising middle class – all of these should be seen as strong indicators of not only a source of capital but of job creation, skills development, technology transfer, infrastructure development, responsible governance and most of all – of sustained growth with long-term diversification and transformation of African economies!

Has the relationship between India and Africa enabled most African countries to now live under stable or relatively stable regimes pursuing free market economics?
The relationship between India and African countries is at excellent level and stable free market economies are supporting digital transformation across the regions. We believe that digital visions of the nations can be achieved much faster through mutual cooperation.

In what ways can the ICT become a catalyst for African development?
United Nations studies have shown that increase of 10 per cent broadband penetration rate leads to almost 1.4 per cent increase in country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). All developing countries in Africa are on the threshold of such increases as they work towards digital dream fulfillment in coming years.

Which market segment does the Indo-Africa ICT Expo 2018 targets?
It will focus on vertical on the following: telecommunications and networking solutions and equipment; mobile money; mobile devices and accessories; network operations and infrastructure; mobile Software applications; VoIP service providers; value added services; cloud computing; enterprise services; mobile commerce; smart devices; machine to machine Communication; training and skill development; quality of services; broadband; telecom regulatory issues including technical audits; mobile security, among others.

How will the expo help to establish strategic partnerships among key players in the ICT ecosystem?
At government level, possibilities of projects in Nigeria being implemented through grants in aid and through Line of Credits for projects at remote locations and villages in Nigeria are open for success.

At private sector level, stakeholders of both countries can show case what they have already achieved in ICT sector, what are their future plans based on their plans in coming years and how they can achieve quantum jump in their contribution towards ICT ecosystem growth through technology transfer, business deals by taking advantage of offerings from India and other parts of the world.

What is the trade volume between India and Africa, cum Nigeria?
Well, export to Nigeria in 2014-15 was valued at $26.6 million; in 2015-16, it was $15.6 million 2016-17 showed $10.3 million. In 2017-18, the figure is $19.8 million.

What are the challenges confronting doing business in Africa?
Ease of doing Business needs to improve. High costs of Visa and delays are some bottlenecks especially faced by ICT stakeholders. For this expo, many of the proposed participants from India could not make it on this count.

How has technology enabled trade development between Nigeria and India?
India can offer technology transfer to Nigeria in ICT sector. Possibilities of Nigeria becoming a telecom manufacturing hub making use of technology transfer from India are also open.

In this article:
ICTR. K. Bhatnagar
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