By Victoria Ojeme
Nigeria is regarded as Africa’s largest ICT market with 82 per cent of the continent’s telecoms subscribers and 29 per cent of internet usage.
Sub-Saharan Africa is also projected to be the fastest growing region with a compound annual growth rate of 4.6 per cent and a subscriber enrolment of over 167 million in the next five years. Nigeria is expected to account for over 55 per cent of this.
The NCC estimates that the country has about 76 million subscriptions on broadband which accounts for 40 per cent penetration and 195.4 million telecom subscribers as of December 2021.
The government of Nigeria recognizes ICT as the enabler for developing other critical sectors including education, healthcare, agriculture, and manufacturing. In its drive to diversify the economy from oil and gas, the federal government is encouraging partnerships between local ICT companies and foreign investors. To promote these partnerships and grow an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the technology sector, the country has supported creating government- or private-sector led incubator hubs, youth innovation programs, and science technology parks.
Abuja Technology Village, which serves as an example, received government support to become a destination for research, incubation, development, and commercialization of ICT.
Construction has begun at the site, and the government has granted Special Economic Zone status to Abuja Technology Village and other hubs to enable duty-free shipments and elimination of labour issues as a fiscal incentive to investors and entrepreneurs.
Speaking at a two-day National Conference on Non-oil Export with the theme, ‘Export for Survival: Optimising Nigeria’s Non-oil Export Potential’, organised by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) recently, Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo said “some of the country’s best stories are in the tech sector, with companies valued over $1billion each and all of these between two recessions.”
He said the tech sector is growing so well because there is a very large hand of the regulator upon it and added that “the country must seek to achieve a situation where regulators see themselves as facilitators of business.”
“This has been the focus of the ministry of Industry Trade and Investment especially with the MSME clinics where we try to show that the very best approach is for regulators to see themselves as those that must promote business,” the Vice President said.
Osinbajo said the government’s job is to enable businesses especially with the regulatory policies.
“The core mandate of the Presidential enabling business environment council found expression in the master action plan of 7.0 on the ease of doing business and in the way to consolidate and removal of regulatory constraints especially around agro-export and to drive the electronic filing of taxes and publication of insolvency regulation of companies and Allied matters Act 2020.
The 7.0.agro export plan prioritizes trade facilitation reforms to minimize cross border trade and transport logistics and for Nigerian companies to do better and to be more compliant with the AFCTA export compliance regulations,” he said.
“The plan for reduction of cargo clearance time has also begun with the facilitation of imports and exports with the introduction of installation of scanners supported also by the port community portal. One of the major problems and complaints that we have is that there is always physical inspection of goods as they come, but with the scanners we hope physical inspection will be greatly reduced.
“We have continued to meet the challenges facing us head-on and there are so many challenges, the government’s commitment to infrastructural development and also looking for ways of funding the exports in trade and investment is one commitment that the government has taken very seriously,” he said.
The Executive Director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Dr. Ezra Yakusak, observed that report from Pre-shipment Inspection Agencies (PIA) revealed a significant growth in export proceeds in the last 5 years 2017-2021 from $1.2 billion to $3.4 billion as against an annual average of $22 billion food importation alone into the country. “To close this gap, concerted efforts are required from all practitioners in the non-oil export value chain,” he said.
Also speaking on the theme “Sustainable Market Access for Nigerian Non-oil Export,” Ambassador Adamu Mohammed Abdulhamid, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said the negative impact on Nigeria’s external reserve has exerted unprecedented pressure on Naira and weakened Nigeria’s ability to finance its import and undermine its Balance of Payment position.
He cited increased poverty and livelihood security difficulties and unemployment as part of the aftermath of these negative indices.
In order to build a resilient economy, Economic Diversification and digitization especially export diversification is key.