Broadband development is critical in stimulating growth, policy harmonisation for enhancing ICT infrastructure and achieving digital economy in Nigeria. This was the outcome of a one-day conference themed: Africa-China Cooperation in ICT and Digital Economy organised by the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in collaboration with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Nigeria and Huawei Technologies Company (Nigeria) Limited.
The conference attended by representatives of government, foreign partners, and stakeholders in the ICT sector featured discussions on policy issues that would bring about a domestic approach to not only enhancing ICT and penetration of fixed broadband, but also improving connectivity through cost-effective network deployment.In his opening remarks, Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo stressed the need to overcome challenges facing the nation by leveraging ICT to fuel the fourth industrial revolution that brings about digital economy.
He noted that Africa must develop its skills, “scale up workforce and move away from business base outsourcing to knowledge base outsourcing. Data is the future and new hope. For us as a country we must invest heavily in capturing data.”Osinbajo expressed federal government’s readiness to work with Chinese government in the areas of digital economy and Innovative Regulatory Framework to foster innovation in Nigeria, and assist the country to move forward.
Represented by his Special Adviser on ICT, Lanre Osibona, he said that Nigeria is investing on digital economy because of the inherent benefits, adding that colloboration with China would help the country to levereage and deepen the digital economy and deepen the gains therein.
Also speaking, Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Zhon Pingjian, said that China will continue to share its development opportunities with African countries and welcome them on board the train of China’s development.Pingian observed that the Summit of China-Africa Cooperation Forum will be held in Beijing, in September, 2018 with the aim of building “One Belt, One Road” together with a common destiny community, and enhancing the connection between ” One Belt, One Road ” with the UN 2030 Sustainable development agenda as well as 2063 AU Agenda.
He noted that China and the African leaders will discuss the new era of China-Africa Cooperation plan adding that president Muhammadu Buhari’s presence at the upcoming FOCAC Beijing Summit will provide an important opportunity for the further development of China -Nigeria strategic partnership.
On his part, Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu said Nigeria’s revolution in the ICT sector accounts for well over $32 billion in foreign direct investment over the last 15 years. Shittu observed that as part of that ICT ecosystem, Chinese companies have invested over $16 billion to date in fixed assets and facilities nationwide to build and support most network operators in the country.He added that such investments in infrastructure have created an ICT backbone that powers various critical sectors of the economy such as Banking, E-commerce, Insurance, and Oil & Gas.
He said: “This conference provides the opportunity to jump start the critical game-changing steps needed to make Nigeria’s objectives a reality in digital economy. Beyond this conference, we must work to strengthen relationships and knowledge.” He advocated the need for all stakeholders to strengthen the technology and innovation ecosystem by supporting the development of innovation hubs in partnership with the private sector.
Digitisation, widespread adoption of digital technologies and applications by Corporates, Government and Consumers, is beneficial for an emerging economy like Nigeria. According to study by PWC, constrained digital economies can potentially realise a 0.5 per cent increase in GDP per capita for every 10 per cent increase in digitisation. The study also highlights that digitisation also has a siicant impact on job creation in the overall economy: an increase of 10 per cent in digitisation reduces a nation’s unemployment rate by 0.84 per cent.
In his remarks, Managing Director of Huawei Technologies Nigeria, Tank Li, stated that a robust ICT infrastructure is the bedrock for digital transformation in Nigeria, and to unleash digital economy potential in the country, issues of availability and affordability need to be addressed.
“In order to foster digital transformation of the economy, policies and programs to increase ICT infrastructure and ensure wide-spread coverage both in urban and rural areas should be prioritised to make voice and data services available; At the same time, strategic measures of infrastructure sharing, investment-friendly regulatory framework and preferential taxation policies are needed to reduce sites acquisition and broadband deployment costs in order to bring down the cost for users to really encourage application of ICT across the industries and the whole society,” Li said.
The conclusive take out from the conference was a call for a framework and policies from the government that will foster broadband Infrastructure development in Nigeria to help stimulate GDP growth.