By Bunmi Adeniyi
Lagos. July 2, 2012. The Minister of Communications Technology, Omobola Johnson has said that local and foreign PC makers will be free to compete for public sector computer purchase contracts.
The Minister’s clarification gladdens foreign PC brands that have raised concerns following an announcement in May this year by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the nation’s IT Policy implementing agency, that Federal Government Ministries, Agencies and Departments (MDAs) must purchase only local PCs to encourage patronage of “Made-in-Nigeria” and foster growth of indigenous ICT sector players.
The Minister, who held a closed-door meeting that was attended by top executives of local and foreign PC makers as well as telecoms companies at the Lagos Zonal Office of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in Ikoyi Lagos, underscores that Nigeria is a liberal country that will promote open competition.
People conversant with the situation told Technology Times that the Minister’s position is that local original equipment suppliers (OEMs) must be first be encouraged to achieve growth levels that will leverage them by promoting standards and value for money to Nigerian technology consumers.
Explaining the position in an interview with Technology Times, SA on Information Technology to the Minister, Ola Ogunneye explains that the Ministry is seeking parity of 50:50 between local and foreign PC makers in terms of PC shipments into the country.
According to him, about 690,000 computers were shipped into Nigeria last year with the local OEMs accounting for only about 30 per cent while their foreign counterparts accounted for 70 per cent, a development that underscores that, “we are not there yet.”
Ogunneye says that the Minister is pushing a broad-based technology initiative to ensure that the 50:50 parity between local and foreign PC brands is achieved by 2015, a year that she also expects that no fewer than three million computers would have been diffused across Nigeria.
“She is not banning foreign OEMs. What she is actually pushing is that the best way to promote local OEMs is to give them a space to grow. For now, we have not achieved that level”, Ogunneye adds underscoring plans underway by the Ministry to encourage local brands to up their game.
“The Minister wants competition with a twist”, he says adding that rather than provide an uncontested space for local PC makers by banning their foreign rivals from Federal contracts, a lucrative market segment for players in the technology space, the Nigerian players are being encouraged to come up with their standards and “value for money” for consumers.
Under the plan, local OEMs will be allowed to provide PCs under certain configurations rather than an outright exclusion of foreign brands from government contracts, he adds.
Another attendee at the meeting told Technology Times under condition of anonymity that the Ministry is seeking the most viable avenues to promote penetration of PCs bundled with Internet connection across the nook and cranny of Nigeria.
A top executive of multinational PC brand with a subsidiary office in Nigeria told Technology Times that foreign OEMs expressed concern over last May announcement by NITDA that they have been excluded from public sector PC purchase contracts.
“On one hand, Nigeria is asking for foreign direct investments (FDIs) while on the other hand they are not creating the enabling environment for foreign companies to compete in the country through such pronouncements”, he said in a phone interview.
The meeting had in attendance executive of local OEMs including Speedstar, Brian, Veda, Zinox and Omatek. Also, foreign brands like HP, Dell, and Acer among others were in attendance alongside telecoms companies operating in the country.
NITDA recently announced that it will launch a monitoring scheme to ensure compliance by all Federal MDAs in the country with the directive to buy only Made-in-Nigeria PCs.
According to NITDA, under its enabling laws, three key acts will be an offence punishable by a prison term, fine or both if flouted in the emerging dispensation by the agency to foster patronage of local ICT products and services.
It will now be punishable for “public procurement of non made-in-Nigeria computers and IT products where certified local brands exist” noting that, “public funds should only be expended on locally manufactured products.”
Director-General, NITDA, Cleopas Angaye says that, “to benefit from this policy, multinational companies are invited to set up production or assembly plants in Nigeria. With more than half the population of West Africa Nigeria has a large enough market to justify foreign direct investment in Information Technology. Instead, one finds that all the multinational firms operate only marketing and sales promotion offices. The transformation of Nigeria into a developed economy cannot be achieved by being a consumer nation.”
According to him, it will now be an offence to display and use non made-in-Nigeria computers in government offices and for government business where certified local brands are available.
NITDA says that “this is not only an unpatriotic act but also an act of sabotage and disregard for both government policy and extant statute. A monitoring unit has been created within NITDA to undertake regular checks to ensure that this regulation is complied with throughout the Federal Public Service.”
NITDA also read out the riot act to administration of public schools on patronage of local IT products in its drive to encourage the Nigerian ICT industry.
“Use of non made-in-Nigeria computers in public schools at all levels. NITDA will seek the collaboration of the Federal Ministry of Education to ensure that the accreditation of schools and renewal of accreditation will depend partly on the establishment of Information Technology labs equipped with locally manufactured IT products”, according to the NITDA D-G.