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‘How to grow local content in Nigeria’s $12b software sector’

By Adeyemi Adepetun and Bankole Orimisan
12 March 2015   |   7:27 pm
LOCAL content development in the software sub-Sector of Nigeria’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector can be driven to a greater height if the industry can take a cue from the successes recorded in the oil and gas sector.

LOCAL content development in the software sub-Sector of Nigeria’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector can be driven to a greater height if the industry can take a cue from the successes recorded in the oil and gas sector.

This was part of the submission by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) at the weekend, in Lagos, at the 2015 President’s Dinner of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON).

Already, experts have reiterated that poor policies and lack of action plans have continued to weaken the growth of the sub-sector, which they estimated to worth about $12 billion.

Indeed, while calling for strategic partnership with the ICT sector, the Executive Secretary, of NCDMB, Dr. Ernest Nwapa, who delivered the keynote address on the theme: ‘Software and Local Content in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Ecosystem’, said the political will is most crucial to drive local content growth.

Nwapa said when the political will is there, software development can be explored in all the sectors of the economy, including the oil and gas industry.

According to him, local content is about things done in Nigeria and that his agency is today focusing on in-country value addition which includes promotion of capacity and use of local resources among others.

“In doing these we have been able to create robust local supply chain,” he said.

According to him, “implementing local in any sector of the economy requires a strong political will to enforce, which contributed to the success my agency has recorded so far’.

He cited a policy where Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) in oil and gas are not allowed to supply anything to any oil company without evidence of manufacturing something in the country. “This is innovative way of improving processes.

In communications technology sector you can insist that certain percentage of software in use must be local,” he said.

Nwapa expressed the readiness of his agency to collaborate with ISPON the way it has done with power sector to plug into its capacity building in training engineers for structural and other electrical and mechanical design in that sector.

“A software engineer who wants to develop an application in the oil and gas sector have many Nigerians working in the sector that can explain to him what the operations are all about, which will guide him in that regard. We don’t have that big gap like before when Nigerians are not allowed in some operational areas in the oil and gas sector,” he added.

Sharing some local content lessons, the NCDMB Executive Secretary said though it is a game changer, it will be resisted locally and globally, but early results have however calmed nerves.

According to him, the local content drive must be championed from the top and tied to national agenda, which he described as, been a long journey, but not a sprint, but that implementation must be structured and sustained.

Nwapa said collaboration produces greater results, therefore, greater development focus with controlled regulation not to drive out foreigners; robust data management system is required to capture and track implementation indices; manufacturing is key to long term job creation, but the activities must be taken to the grass root.

Other lessons are that asset ownership and yard development requirements attract investments; training and employment connects industry to the community; Research and Development is a necessary strategy to build efficiency into local operations and that funding support extends life wire to local supply chain.

In her address, the Minister of Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson said poor local content growth has increased capital flight, stressing that trillions of Naira is taking out of the country through licensed software use in Nigeria.

Johnson, who agreed that action must be taking fast to stem the tide, said knowledge and skills development are critical to the software sector.

She expressed the readiness of the ministry and ISPON to work with Nwapa and the NCDMB on local content growth in the technology sector, stressing that ICT has contributed about 9.5 per cent to GDP and could do more if all avenues are explored adequately.

Like Johnson, the Governor of Cross River state, Senator Liyel Imoke, who also graced the occasion, said that huge opportunities lie in the software sector and must be explored to the fullest.

Imoke, who also canvassed skills development, stressed that Cross River state is positioning itself towards becoming a technology hub in the country.

The President, ISPON, Pius Okigbo Jr, in his remark, said that local content by its very nature is a deliberate policy focused on economic growth.

“At its core is the principle of human development and the need to develop and deepen human capabilities as well as build the requisites skills at all levels of value chain.”

Immediate past president of ISPON, Chris Uwaje, strongly believe that right policies can bring out the best in Nigeria’s $12 billion software sector, stressing that Nigeria must focus on building a knowledge economy.