Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, LG and other foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) will lose their grip on Nigeria’s Personal Computer (PC) market as the Federal Government yesterday finally moved to enforce a comprehensive ban on foreign computers and technology products in public institutions, including schools.
The aim of the ban is to encourage patronage of ‘Made-in-Nigeria’ products and foster growth in the local Information Communications Technology (ICT) industry.
Cleopas Anganye, director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) made this declaration on Tuesday, at a two-day retreat on draft guidelines for home grown IT hardware products.
Stressing the importance of benchmarking Nigeria’s IT products against international standards in order to make them competitive and marketable globally, Angaye further declared that the procurement by public institutions, of non made-in-Nigeria computers, where certified local brands exist, would be an offence punishable by a prison term and fine, under the NITDA Act.
Industry analysts told Business Day yesterday that Nigeria’s computer hardware market has remained underdeveloped due to poor policy formulation and implementation by government, as well as the attendant high cost of equipment acquisition in Nigeria.
According to the analysts, inspite of the growing number of local OEMs and resellers, and the significant growth recorded in the telecommunications industry after the sector was deregulated in 2001; PC penetration remains very low at 7 per 1, 000 Nigerians.
Angaye noted that the Federal Government’s accreditation of computer assembly plants had expired. This, he added, called for the development of new standards for computer manufacturing in the country. After the conclusion of the retreat and subsequent issuance of the new guidelines, the NITDA boss explained, it would be regarded as economic sabotage if Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) did not patronise Nigerian IT products.
Angaye, represented at the retreat by director, standards and regulation, NITDA, Inye Kemabonta, said the IT implementing agency would in the next fortnight, launch a monitoring scheme to ensure compliance by all public institutions across Nigeria.
According to NITDA, under its enabling laws, three key actions would be offences punishable by prison terms, fines or both, if flouted in the emerging dispensation.
First, the public procurement of non made-in-Nigeria computers and IT products where certified local brands exist, is an offence. Secondly, the display and use of non made-in-Nigeria computers in government offices and for government business, where certified local brands are available, is also an offence punishable by law. Lastly, use of non made-in-Nigeria computers in public schools at all levels is likewise an offence.
In the same vein, Chris Uwaje, president of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) enjoined government to provide the enabling environment for indigenous computer manufacturers to thrive.
Angaye further added, “To benefit from this policy, multinational companies are invited to set up production or assembly plants in Nigeria.
According to him, with more than half the population of West Africa, Nigeria has a large enough market to justify foreign direct investment in IT. “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.
“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”, Angaye concluded.
Local computer manufacturers at the retreat expressed confidence in government’s renewed efforts to develop the IT industry, create employment through local assembly of computers and build the capacity of Nigerian IT entrepreneurs.
“I do not see any reason why our people shy away from locally made PCs. If you open a locally made PCs and other foreign brands, you will find the same components in all of them. We all buy from the same component manufacturer.
If given a chance, we can compete favourably with the foreign brands. We already have the policies on ground that support usage of locally made computers. I think the fundamental issue militating against the development of the industry is implementation of these policies”, Tunde Balogun, president of the Computer and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria (CAPDAN) said