This morning, Oby Ezekwesili tweeted this;
— Oby Ezekwesili (@obyezeks) October 31, 2017
Her tweet stirred something in me which I thought I had put to rest earlier this month. What will Buhari’s administration* say they contributed to the tech ecosystem in Nigeria in their 2years 5months and 2days of rule? I am counting too.
According to The Economist magazine, the (American) tech sector has done in 20 years what the financial services industry couldn’t do in 200 years; “build scale” and I will add, with an enabling government in power.
The stories of successes in America have become inspiration for other nations of the world and the technology boom is gaining ground even in sub Saharan Africa; technology has changed the game and most young people (which would amount to 500million in 2050 in Africa) have become digital natives with a mix of product dispositions both from foreign climes and local climes like young people having Oga taxi app and the Uber app on their phones.
I will admit, the Nigerian story has been successful. Although slightly late, we have started to catch the eye of the world with big gains from companies like Andela, Paystack,
This can only continue because with technology, the future only gets brighter. A clear proof of this fact is the rapid growth of the likes of Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook worth over 1 trillion dollars ~ a sizable portion of America’s 20 trillion dollar economy.
In Nigeria’s case, some sectors are wallowing in underdevelopment as a result of government inclusion but ironically, if the tech sector wants to increase in scale like our American (and Chinese?) counterparts, the government needs to come in and put their might in the sector.
What Government should do?
For government to be able to play in this space they must understand the technology space. There must be holistic adoption. The phrase “Tech is the new oil boom” has been so bastardized that government probably trembled at the audacious suggestion that “social media” and apps and stuff would finance the budget, it pandered to oil exploration in the North. Indeed, if we are to scale, government must wake up to the fact that Nigeria sits on a gold mine. With over 60 percent of its population less than 30 years of age bustling with energy, the technology value chain can be used to provide opportunities that can help bring people out of the gulf of poverty.
Steps to achieving this?
I suggest that the federal government set up a Technology Awareness and Re-awakening Fund (TARF). This fund should be used to kick start the startup industry in Nigeria. This should be implemented with the aim of having 13,000 starts ups funded over a period of 1 year and this should be continuous; various regulations should be enforced with recipients mandated to develop technology manpower amongst Nigerian youths.If this is properly harnessed this should provide over 10 million jobs in 10 years. Furthermore, while the IMF has advised that government stopped tax holidays, I’d rather that tax breaks and constant support were given to these model startups (alone) and like the IMF suggested, the tobacco and alcohol industries be heavily taxed.
The government should also work at changing the curriculum to support modern realities in the technology industry. Currently our syllabuses are moribund. Imagine a university student still studying FORTRAN. This ought to addressed with the ministry of education, the National Universities Commission and other stakeholders. To back it up, the government should set up Code academies in the 774 local government areas across the country to teach and help develop youths in the technology space. The Code academies should be a beacon of excellence in our society.
I believe with all these moves Nigeria should be on a path to harmonize our potentials in the technology space for development.
Baba, while you are there; with the 1year, 6months and 29days you have left, now is the time to start!