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AfCFTA will open new markets for Nigerian ICT Companies ― Pantami

… Urges Players to Take Advantage

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Panatami

By Emmanuel Elebeke

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Panatami has challenged all stakeholders in the Nigerian ICT sector to transform their businesses by embracing new technologies and leveraging opportunities offered by African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

This he said will engender expansion and growth of their businesses and by extension our national economy with a resultant effect of more jobs, wealth and improved standard of living for the majority of our people.

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Dr. Pantami gave the charge while delivering his keynote address at the 2019 edition of the Local Content Roundtable and Tech Fair sponsored by FinTrak Software held in Abuja.

The event is an annual platform to promote products and services of local players in the Information & Communications Technology sector with the theme: Patronage of Nigerian Software in the Context of AfCFTA and the Local Content Policy.

When implemented, he said AfCFTA will open new markets and provide more opportunities to Nigerian ICT players, specifically Software Companies, assuring that Nigeria will do its best to speedily ratify the Agreement in order to fully operationalize it.

‘‘I challenge all stakeholders in the Nigerian ICT sector to transform their businesses by embracing new technologies and leveraging opportunities offered by African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Nigeria will do its best to speedily ratify the Agreement in order to fully operationalize it.

‘‘While there have been discussions on the pros and cons of this agreement on the Nigerian economy, we firmly believe that the impact will be largely positive for the software sub-sector of the Nigerian ICT industry. It is on record that several Nigerian software products are already being exported and used in other African countries, so AfCFTA is bound to open new markets and provide more opportunities to the Nigerian software companies.

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‘‘This will inevitably result in the scaling up of these companies, which will result in more job opportunities and inevitably contribute to increasing the ICT sector contribution to the national GDP.’’

On his part, the Minister said the ministry had instituted the Local Content in ICT Policy by developing and launching the ‘Guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in ICT” In December 2013. ‘‘Thereafter, the “Office for Nigerian Content Development in ICT (ONC)” was strategically created under the National Information and Communication Development Agency (NITDA) to drive the policy and ensure nationwide adherence with a specific focus on four (4) main areas of ICT Services, Software, Human capital, and Hardware.

‘‘The ONC was charged with growing the Indigenous ICT industry at a level of making a double-digit contribution to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This was to be achieved by ensuring that local ICT companies were supported to participate significantly in the various ICF sector value chain.

‘‘During my tenure as the Director-General and Chief Executive at NITDA, we revisited an existing government circular which directed all Federal Public Institutions to obtain clearance from NITDA before embarking on any IT project. We subsequent” issued the “Guideline on IT project Clearance” to assist in the harmonization of IT projects being implemented by Federal public institutions, with a view to achieving cost reduction in IT projects executions, eliminating duplication and ensuring the development of the local IT market through increased patronage by government.

Earlier in his address, the GMD, FinTrak Software, Bimbo Abioye said the focus of the meeting was to expose the solutions that had been tested in private sector of the economy to the public sector and ensure that we begin to patronize solutions that were developed in Nigeria to strengthen our capacity, stem the tide of foreign exchange outflow and provide employment for teeming Nigerians.

Abioye lamented the insatiable quest for foreign software by both private and public sectors over the years, which he said had led to the loss of billions of naira annually thus enriching foreign nations and providing employment for their nationals.

He said this culture and practice were perpetrated because of our tendencies not to believe in ourselves and trust what we produce or do as Nigerians.

According to him, ‘‘there are blames on all sided for these as the get rich quick of fellow Nigerians and corruption I high places and production of substandard and poorly supported solutions.’’

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