Help information technology industry to grow

Omoni Oboli
I am Omoni Oboli and I represent Naija! It’s so ironic that at such a time as this, when we have entered a recession, certain things have occurred to show that there is something positive and progressive about to happen and has already started working, even though it may seem invisible to many so far. We have the coming of Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook mogul, which has sparked off interesting memes (trust Nigerians) and more importantly, the validation of a sector of our economy that wasn’t even recognised by those in authority in such a way as to deliberately and constructively help its growth.

This is a sector that has helped put India on the world map of information technology. It is a major contributor to its GDP, such that it has increased its contribution to India’s GDP from about 1.2 per cent in 1998 to about 7.5 per cent in 2012. In fact, out of the $147 billion aggregated revenue of 2015, the amount they got from the export of this sector stood at $99 billion! Wow! This is why their current prime minister, Narendra Modi, has started a project that would further give IT a secured position in the economy both within and outside India, called ‘Digital India’. The summary of all these efforts is a more robust and diversified economy which has helped to generate abut 2.5 million direct employments, making India also the world’s largest exporter of IT.

How do we replicate what we know is surely possible in our own country? How do we start the process of diversifying our economy away from our oil dependence to other more robust sectors waiting to explode if given the opportunity? How do we begin the infrastructural developments that enable the growth of small and medium businesses (SMEs) with a view to helping them grow into global businesses? How do we stop the misdirection of our teeming youth who are hungry for success and have an innate entrepreneurial drive, so that their energy can be channeled towards building rather than destroying?

In the first place, we stop blaming and start aiming for a goal, which the world has already shown us is achievable. We don’t try to reinvent the wheel, but we first learn from what has been done by others, replicate it, and then inject our DNA into the future products so that it has our own identity for others to come and learn from us too. We don’t try to be like them in the first year, but we start the process and learn to enjoy the journey so we don’t burn out from the frustration of undue impatience.

This can be applied to other sectors of the economy to help them grow into major contributors to the nation’s GDP. We can sit around and watch the economy crumble or we can start the building process as those who understand the immediacy of our dire situation. The choice is entirely ours. I’m so blessed to be in an industry that has grown tremendously purely from individual efforts within the group, but I also know the frustration of missing greater opportunities for growth within the sector, and by default, the economy, because our efforts are not being accelerated by the right policies and our reward is being stolen by unhindered piracy. We now know how our efforts can make something as big as Nollywood grow, how employment can be increased exponentially, and we also know our limitations through our efforts alone without the necessary government action.

You can have the matchstick and you can have the gas, but without the oven cooker, you can’t cook conveniently. Since you must cook, you’re forced to use more primitively methods like firewood, but we know the mess it leaves. This could’ve been a lot faster and neater with the cooking gas, but it is also more expensive to purchase. The same with the different sectors, IT or Nollywood, we need the the government to step in, be the gas cooker, and use the resources we can’t generate on our own to help fight the battles we can’t fight on our won, so that we can have the enabling atmosphere and the right policies to build the industry that we know how to on our own.

It’s great that Mark Zuckerberg came to Nigeria, and his visit has inspired many into greater possibilities. It’s also great that the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) came to Nigeria, which also helped to lift the morale and efforts of those who had been working under the radar of global entertainment. Whether it’s MTV base coming to Africa to boost the music industry, or any other global giants that have come, their coming would open the eyes of someone who would go on to do great things that would ultimately affect the economy positively. We welcome them, but we shouldn’t let that be the end of the narrative, but the beginning of building on that morale booster to achieve what had been perceived, in the eyes of the common Nigerian, as impossible before they came.

Let’s push the conversation to build Nigeria up by boosting our most treasured and untapped asset, our own people! Brick by brick, business-by-business, sector-by-sector, we can make Nigeria great!

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