By Emeka Aginam
There appears to be fresh concern over the gradual death of Original Equipment Manufacturers, OEM, in the Nigerian Information Communication Technology, ICT, market.
Before now, local PC makers, including Beta Computers, UNITEC, Pragmatic, Brian Systems, Zinox, ,Omatek , Geniac and Veda had serviced the Nigerian IT market.
Sadly enough, the market has remained largely dominated by foreign vendors, leaving a fraction of the margin for the local PC makers to contend with as majority of these local PC makers for now, are either struggling to survive or completely disappeared from the market landscape. The surviving players are only managing to keep afloat for a mix of factors.
To promote local PC assembly, former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration had issued a directive that all MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies) must patronize local PC makers and consider foreign brands only if the local brands could not meet up with the requirements.
The policy was designed to help generate employment in the PC sub-sector and grow local capacity in computer assembly.
The policy, no doubt, had increased sales for the local PC assemblers. But today, it is a different narrative as the local PCs manufacturers have been struggling to play in the market largely dominated by foreign products.
Just recently at the fortieth anniversary of the Nigerian Computer Society, NCS, concern for the shrinking market for the local PCs makers re-echoed.
For Austin Okere, the Founder of Computer Warehouse Group Plc and the Ausso Leadership Academy, who was very concerned over the poor market for the local PCs markers told the gathering in his keynote address at the 40th Anniversary of Nigeria Computer Society, NCS and 2018 National IT Merit Awards , NITMA held recently in Lagos that something has to be done urgently to the save the market from total collapse.
Insisting on the need to re-Imagine the Nigeria Computer Society to save it from extinction, Okere said that, “Perhaps some of the advocacy that could make the NCS more relevant would be championing the campaign for Original Equipment Manufacturer, OEM, Partners of our local companies to shoulder their own tax burden than leaving it all onto the local partner, even though the major part of the deal goes to the OEM.
“The local Partner is therefore left with a huge withholding tax burden on his meagre margin and is chronically cash-strapped, leading to anaemic growth if at all”.
For Okere, another advocacy point for NCS could be campaigning for the OEMs to accept their portion of payments in local currency, as currently happens in Kenya; so that the local company is not left alone to bear the exchange risk.
According to him, “Should the NCS perhaps approach Fintech 1000 to be them into the fold? Should we reach across other similar associations in Africa to take advantage of network effects? Should we court our technology gurus in the diaspora to become members, especially in this era of online participation? Should we make it easier for non-computer science graduates running technology companies to also join our association?”
This fear of inevitable irrelevance, according to Okere, was raised by Sir Demola Aladekomo, former NCS President in 2016.
“He invited the college of fellows to the metropolitan club to address this issue. Did any action plan result from there? If so is it been implemented?
“To be fair, I saw for the first time an initiative by our association to start admitting online participation in meetings. And this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction But is it perhaps too little too late. I believe we need to reimagine the NCS, craft a new vision and chart a new course…
“We need a diversity in leadership which will include our outstanding millennials. Our old leaders keep the history and traditions, but it is our young leaders that can point us into the direction of the future, he added.
“Having lived out my vision at CWG Plc, a company we founded and listed as the largest security in the technology sector of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, I have started on a new vision of mentoring Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs to geometrically scale their businesses in order to optimize the jobs they create, because I believe this will enable shared prosperity.
“The Ausso Leadership Academy is the vehicle that I am deploying to impact at least 200 people per year to double their turnover one year after impact. We have the full support of our most outstanding Business Champions who come to share their experiences to inspire the delegates”, he added.
For Okere, ALA could work together with the NCS to avail their members this opportunity. With this, he has pledge to offer a 20% scholarship to NCS members who would want to attend the Academy and register through the NCS.