By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-tech Editor
Going by available statistics, there are well over 23 million unemployed and under-employed Nigerians who are looking up to the government to provide employment opportunities for them.
However there seems to be little hope in this direction, as even the government agencies expected to absorb some of these unemployed youths are also consistently down-sizing, leaving huge, negative multiplier effect on the economy while creating a myriad of social problems.
Meanwhile, a budding e-commerce outfit, Yudala has just in about five months of operation, created 5,000 jobs and is expecting to double the numbers with a massive expansion programme it is putting in place. Such is the power of Information and Communications Technology, ICT, which makes it the next big sector for employment and possibly the hope of Nigerian economy as oil prices keep diminishing by the day.
Apparently, that is also why the Chairman of Zinox Group, Mr Leo- Stan Ekeh believes that if President Muhammadu Buhari makes structured investment in ICT, he could be building a stronger Nigerian economy that may not feel the effect of any downward slope in crude oil price in future.
However, he also regretted that Nigeria may not achieve much, with the country being 99 percent analogue at the moment.
According to him “If past administrations invested heavily in the ICT sector, the country would by now be earning more revenue from the sector than oil, with solid hopes of prosperity for the people.”
He warned the country against believing there could be any miracle from oil, adding that “the knowledge based economy is the only way to sustain this economy. It is also means that government must have a rethink, invest in ICT and automate economy and process of governance. Today, 95 percent of the country is analogue and not much wealth could be created in such an environment. Government should not continue to see ICT as PC and laptops. It has gone beyond that. The miracle that can transform this country is going to come from ICT not from oil.”
He also argued that “global statistics have shown credible trend in countries resolving their employment challenges through structured investment in the ICT sector”.
Solid future: In a chat with newsmen recently, Ekeh queried if our leaders and their advisers are too blind to see future measureable wealth or are deliberately turning blind eye to factors that can raise the country’s status quo.
He argued that “the Devices, Software, Solution and E-commerce sectors could employ well over 45 million Nigerians and could also bring minimum revenue of $150billion every year. “What are we still waiting for to save this nation? Is it not a shame we are all waiting for oil prices to move up for the nation to survive? We are putting all our hopes on nature, while ignoring what we have control of; this is not how to be proactive and futuristic” he added.
Proactive and futuristic
“In this 21stcentury, no one who has a business can remain poor especially considering the proliferation of ICT tools and the internet which have put the world at everyone’s finger-tips. Today, you no longer have to physically leave your environment to gain access to formal education.
With a computer and access to the internet, a variety of degrees can be acquired at your convenience. In the same technology, is access to new information on business intelligence, ideas and concepts which could radically change one’s circumstances?
Information is power and if it is at everyone’s disposal at the speed of light these days, what business, do we still have, as a nation, being classified as a Third World or developing country”?
He recalled that many years ago, he realized that the power to liberate millions of Nigerian youths depended on the internet and associated technologies and therefore took the decision to create the Computerize Nigeria project launched in 2001.
According to him, “the idea was to provide affordable access to ICT tools and processes which, among other things, promoted the digital re-tooling of individuals, institutions and corporate entities as well as the launch of the first computer ownership scheme in Nigeria.
“Imagine every Nigerian being able to own a computer which with he or she can access the internet and avail themselves of the huge well of information and intelligence that is evidently manifest therein. Before long, you will have built a knowledge economy of highly literate and sound-thinking people who can stand on their own and take meaningful decisions in business which will undoubtedly rub off on the nation’s fortunes”.
Prescribing some palliatives that could help save the economy, he advised the President to appeal to large corporate organisations and even small and medium companies to leverage on reserves by also offering them some tax incentives for the next 18months so that employees are not unnecessarily retrenched to bloat the labour market.