Topping the investment priorities for Nigeria is connectivity, local content creation and knowledge transfer. The West African country is the Country partner for GITEX 2014 and at the Nigerian Investment forum speakers put emphasis on the country’s opportunities along the following lines:
Local Content Development
The speakers who included the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Director General, Peter Jack underlined the need to have the larger part of Nigeria, mostly in the north connected both in large data pipes and last mile connectivity. This is bound to both open up new markets to opportunities while creating a more vibrant economy that is not region restricted.
One of the key highlights is the Nigeria Smart City Innovation Hub project that is also tagged as the digital coast in Lagos and is Nigeria’s idea of Silicon Valley in Nigeria. The aim is to have the Smart City among other projects turn Nigeria to be the Africa ICT hub, a position that has Kenya, South Africa and Ghana also angling strongly for.
Nigeria calls for investments in connectivity infrastructure development across the country and within the far-fetched towns, setting up of local training zones for technology skills by multinationals like SAP and Cisco, local partnerships that will see the country have a win-win situation between local and foreign players in ICT and also development of local content to ensure development of the ICT sector in the country.
Interesting stats in Nigeria include a 170 million strong population, 42% of which is at age 15 and below and a GDP growth of 7% which has been stable for the last 5 years, and of course the newly achieved status of Africa’s largest economy after the economy rebasing that saw the country overtake South Africa. The country also has 48 million active internet users and of-course opening the market further reaches the 170 million population with enormous potential in trade, education and technology. Nigeria also has 10 Tbps undersea Internet pipe connecting from the coast, but the network up north is quite limited.
Investors from India and UAE at the forum looked interested by the investments opportunities by the country, of course the numbers look appealing considering such a huge market with a very young population. Top among the queries at the forum included what the country was doing specifically for country by country investments in ICT.
“Nigeria has been relying mainly in oil and gas as the main economy drivers, and this has posed a lot of problems, ICT even globally cannot be avoided to create opportunities for jobs and wealth, said Vincent Olatunji, Deputy Director, Corporate Strategy and Research at the Nigeria National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). “We believe that there is no better time than now when the whole of the world is looking at Africa as the next growth frontier in terms of investments, and Nigeria is one market with almost guaranteed return on investment whichever way you look at it,” he added at a separate interview.
Mr Olatunji says there is a drive to change the perception of the country and have people see how lucrative the market is in terms of investments by both local and foreign investors. Education, e-governance, Agriculture, Research Development and Innovation, and Health are the main sectors where investments in ICT would create a huge impact in the economy. Thus as he puts it, increasing the number of the connected Nigerians will have a direct impact on the economy. Challenges include right of way for connectivity infrastructure and the exisiting investments in connectivity which is mostly in the south.