You have been recently appointed in your position. In light of the Transformation Agenda, the Millennium Development Goals and taking into consideration the tremendous advances in the Telecoms sector; what are your three main objectives for the drive forwards of NITDA?
We plan to position NITDA as a prime catalyst for transformation into a ubiquitous society. In doing so we are going to engage all the sectors. Our principal strategy is a stakeholder partnership strategy. We are going to position IT as a credible economic sector, possible surpassing Oil and Gas in the future. We also plan to use IT to catalyze growth in all the other sectors; for IT to be an enabler in sectors such as (oil and gas, agriculture, industry, housing, etc).
We also recognize the need for capacity building. We are engaging the major solution providers (cisco, sap, etc) to build capacities across solutions and services in terms of hardware (not only software).
In terms of our relationship with the Ministry of Communication Technologies we are building relationships to develop IT and Innovation hubs. We have a center in Calabar (the Idea Hub), we have a similar center in Lagos and also supported software development centers in partnership with the Nigerian Computer Society. In Lagos we are developing a 50 hectare park only dedicated to this.
As we speak, our team is in London, talking to the Trade and Investment Arm of UK (TI) to explore the relationship between UK and Nigerian businesses. We are also exploring relationships with other nations, such as South Korea. We shall be visiting South Korea during the next weeks. The Asian country stands as an example to follow. In 1997 after the Asian crisis, South Korea adopted an IT focused economic development strategy and successfully positioned IT as a 25% contributor to the GDP.
We are going to engage in bilateral relations with countries; sectorial relations locally and multilateral relations with the World Bank and the UN. In a nutshell, we know where we are going. Our main task is to create entrepreneurs and therefore employment. One of our flagship objectives is the creation of 600,000 IT related entrepreneurs and two million jobs during the four years of my term.
What is your impression on the overall business environment in Nigeria?
The present challenges in the northern part of our country have never deterred investors’ confidence in Nigeria. The reality is that the long term relations we had with other countries, made them understand Nigeria’s situation. It is up to us to continue to address these issues appropriately. We have a responsibility to convince the international community that present challenges will be a thing of the past in the near future. Nigeria is the best investment destination in Africa without a doubt.
When the privatization of telecoms started many people were against it. Same was the case with the Power Transformation. Both proved to be success stories. How would you sell the IT sector to foreign investors taking into account the large talent pool in Nigeria?
At present there is a move towards IT convergence. With the high level of penetration of telecoms in Nigeria we know that most of the applications developed by young entrepreneurs automatically get to reach a large number of Nigerians connected through handsets. We are going to ride on some of the existing advantages provided by the telecoms sector. In a very short period, NITDA will have its own app. It will be a useful channel to raise awareness on the sector and the institution.
There is a large group of ingenious and talented Nigerians working in IT. We have seen examples such as Joomla, Joberman, Oxygen Wireless, brain-friend, educational software, etc. NITDA is proud to say it has mentored some of these entrepreneurs over the years. During a recent retreat in Lagos we hosted over 20 of these developers and we were impressed by their innovation and concepts. This is being done across the country.
On a personal level, could you share your main motivational factors with our readers?
The need to touch lives across the communities in the country. Our flagship project aims at putting a tele-center in every village of Nigeria. We plan to use that as a platform to touch lives. In partnership with the Ministry of Trade and Investment we have identified the potential in SMEs. There are over 18million SMEs in Nigeria, if we can promote IT and get every company to have an IT related job then we will be able to create 18 million jobs. I am part of NITDA since inception and my work is closely linked to the institution. I am proud of our work as a team and I am convinced the future holds many opportunities and successes ahead as Nigeria moves into fast paced development.