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TSA : An opportunity to export home-grown technology

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As other countries look forward to adopting TSA implementation, Nigerians are once again, presented a huge opportunity to export the country’s local technological inputs by telling its story, writes Chidi Frank

The Treasury Single Account (TSA) has been touted as one of the most successful initiatives carried out under the current administration of Muhammadu Buhari. While there is a lot of argument about which regime initiated it and how it should be run, everyone seems to agree on a single opinion; that it has made a difference in government finance management.

The TSA has reduced wastage in government financial processes and stimulated increased remittance from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government. Because of the way it operates, the TSA has also been instrumental in weeding out ghost workers on the Federal government payroll. All these have been achieved without anybody having to really understand how TSA works or even recognize the reason why it worked.

It is my opinion, and also the opinion of many people I have spoken to, that the TSA worked out, not because of the government, but in spite of the government. Because the government has done little or nothing to own, promote or sensitize the public about the TSA, the burden of making it work had fallen automatically on the private sector players, who provided the technology that powers it. In the end, it was the technology that made the whole process work.

Remita, a software solution created by Nigerian FinTech firm, SystemSpecs is the thread that connects all the seams together in an intricate government financial system called the TSA. Citizens pay money to the government and its agencies through it, MDAs remit to the Federal government through it, and the government disburses money to its vendors through it.
The success of Remita with the TSA should be a point of reference for the capacity of homegrown technology solutions. It is an opportunity the government should be using to promote local FinTech solutions and sell them to other countries.

TSA is a global concept recommended by the International Monetary Fund. Therefore, its application is finding adoption in other countries around the world. Some of the recent countries planning to adopt it include Pakistan and the Gambia. These countries will be looking at places like Nigeria to understudy what we have done with our own TSA. When they ask us about the TSA what kind of stories will we be telling them? It is pertinent we tell them the stories of Nigeria’s homegrown technology solutions, which we have left unacknowledged for too long.

It is often said that a prophet’s worth is not known at home but from afar. Such is the case with many things in Nigeria, including our growing Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry. In recent times, Nigeria has undergone a remarkable but often unnoticeable ICT revolution, especially in the Financial Technology sector.

In the last five years, the ICT industry in Nigeria has evolved to become a critical non-oil growth driver and major contributor to the economy, supported by a sizeable young population and the rapid adoption of mobile internet services. According to international research firm, Statista, there are approximately 76.2 million Nigerian internet users as of 2017; an increase of nearly 50 percent from the 2013 figure of 51.8 million. This number is bound to increase significantly as the adoption of mobile technology becomes rapidly widespread among Nigeria’s youthful population.

Lots of young people are doing amazing stuff in Lagos, and across Nigeria, maximizing technology to create solutions in various areas including retail, accounting, communications, and finance. Technology companies are springing up from Nigeria and many have become international successes.
Nigeria’s successful technology brands are numerous but Remita, Paga, Jumia, Flutterwave, Iroko TV, Lidya, and Paystack are some of the prominent ones.

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During his address last month at the Annual Investment Meeting in Dubai, President Muhammadu Buhari lauded the innovation of Nigeria’s technology entrepreneurs.
“Today, Nigeria has close to ninety technology hubs and every day, new ones are coming up and they are all developing solutions for Nigerian, and indeed global problems,” Buhari told a room of leaders from Africa and the Middle East, including the president of the United Arab Emirates; Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

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According to Buhari, these young entrepreneurs have attracted investments of over one hundred million dollars. A sizeable amount from overseas including Silicon Valley.

This was the first time I have seen the president, or a top Nigerian government attempt to market Nigeria’s bourgeoning technology innovations, which should have been a huge source of foreign exchange for the country by now.
I have always believed one of the reasons we are not pushing forward our experience in operating the TSA is because the government never had a framework for it. Just like other policies thrust on us from the IMF and other international powerful institutions, it was handed to us and we have accidentally made a success of it. Now a little introspection is needed and part of that should be how we maximize the TSA story as a testimony to the fact that we can make something work in Nigeria.

As other countries look forward to adopting TSA implementation, we are once again, presented a huge opportunity to export our local technological inputs by telling our story.

Frank writes from Lagos

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