NIGERIA’S ICT mogul, Leo Stan Ekeh, has lamented the low patronage of indigenous operators of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Africa, saying that a legislation was necessary to compel local patronage of ICT industry.
He said that indigenous operators across the West African sub-region can earn over $20billion in foreign exchange annually from the ICT industry if patronage is made mandatory through legislation.
Ekeh, who is the chairman of Zinox Technologies Limited, an indigenous IT firm spoke at the West African Information and Communications Technology Congress/Exhibition in Lagos.
He said that $20bn in foreign exchange could be raked in annually from IT application software industry and the hardware sector.
Ekeh said this was possible if the patronage of local ICT products and services were made mandatory through appropriate legislations by governments in the sub region.
“We do advocate here that all nations in the region must accept that setting a national campaign on IT awareness agenda is imperative against the backdrop that building knowledge capacities presents immense economic opportunities for nation building,” he said.
“Suffice it to state that the West African region can earn over $20bn in foreign exchange annually from the IT application software industry and the hardware sector, especially if the patronage of its products and services are made mandatory and enshrined in appropriate legislation,” Ekeh.
Ekeh lamented that the oil and gas industry, which accounted for the lion share of the nation‘s revenue, was exempted from the National Information Technology Development Fund, established for IT development in Nigeria.
According to him,”In other oil exporting countries of the world; it is the oil and gas industry that contributes more than 50 per cent of the nations‘ICT development fund.”
Ekeh further said that ICT development must be integrated by West African governments, for sustainable development in the sub-region.
He said the ICT revolution in West Africa should gather momentum from the private energies released as a result of deregulation and privatisation of national economies.
Ekeh said the increase in state-imposed barriers to inter- country flows undermined regional trade and cooperation.
He said, ”For example, a hard ware manufacturing plant in Nigeria should ideally service Ghana, Liberia, Gambia and Sierra Leone. It will not make economic sense to set up plants in each of these countries.
“The principles of economic integration require that resources are conserved for the common good, that facilities are replicated only when it is absolutely necessary,” Ekeh.
He lamented that huge import tariffs for finished goods, high business registration fees, multiple taxation and labour requirements in the region were often more stringent than those laid out for Africans in Europe.
He added that unhealthy conditions for doing business inhibited economic integration within the ECOWAS bloc.
Ekeh said local IT operators in the sub region must insist on a vibrant indigenous assembling industry as a means of attracting the interest of the leading manufacturers of processors, mother boards and the chips necessary for assembling.
He said, ”Governments in West Africa must make preference for locally assembled ICT products a major plank of public sector purchasing and inventory. The legislature must make laws that make it mandatory for key players in the economy to contribute to ICT penetration through the patronage of locally assembled brands.
”This should translate to the empowerment of indigenous entrepreneurs to spur corporate investment, advance the development of human capital, provide sustainable employment and deliver goods and services for nation building and global competitiveness. ”
He noted that governments in West Africa must make preference for locally assembled ICT products a major plank of public sector purchasing and inventory.
The legislature must make laws that make it mandatory for key players in the economy to contribute to ICT penetration through the patronage of locally assembled brands.
IKECHUKWU OSODO in Lagos, Nigeria