President Muhammadu Buhari got the first made-in-Nigeria phone, the ITF mobile, last Wednesday, June 10, 2021. While delivering the phones to the President, just before the Federal Executive Meeting, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, described them as the first-ever to be made in the country. The phone was one of 12 made by the Electrical/Electronic Technology Department of the Industrial Training Fund’s (ITF) Model Skills Training Centre, utilising locally sourced components.
This is a remarkable achievement of the ITF. Sir Joseph Ari, Director General of ITF, introduced the phone, which was constructed from locally produced components. He revealed this during the opening ceremony of the 12th National Council on Industry, Trade, and Investment, which was held in both physical and virtual form. Ari tendered five phones to Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, and Amb. Mariam Katagum, state minister. Ari added that the model skill centre partnered with Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education and Services in five trade areas, including mechatronics and autotronics, computer networking, ICT, facilities management, and gastronomy,
This is a milestone in Nigeria’s tech industry, especially because it rekindles the hope and possibility of Nigeria diversifying her economy via ICT, an initiative that has been the goal of most past governments as well as the current one. However, with the cravings of Nigerians for imported goods, as they are deemed better and of higher quality than anything produced by the country, one can’t help but wonder what the fate of this laudable venture will be. Will Nigerians buy made-in-Nigeria cell phones or continue to patronise foreign phones?
Nigerians have long favored imported products over locally-made goods because they are regarded as being of a low standard to foreign products. This is often related to the fact that the country is predominantly known for exporting raw materials, and not electronics and gadgets. Since the country is quite new to the tech manufacturing landscape, these phones may be viewed with mistrust, as attentive eyes will probe for signs of low quality, especially in the components of craftsmanship. However, if these phones meet the standard of Nigerians in terms of quality and affordability, most Nigerians will rather opt for them, especially if it will be affordable.
Commenting on the quality and cost of the phone, Sir Joseph Ari stated that actions are in place to work with key regulatory agencies on quality assurance for their endorsement as well as establish a manufacturing centre that will produce it in large number, to make it affordable for all Nigerians. This will expand the GSM phone market and create more employment in the process.
It is pertinent to note that the market potential of cell phones in Nigeria is very promising because billions of naira is spent yearly on its importation from China and other parts of the world. In 2020, the smartphone market was worth USD 714.96 billion, and by 2026, it is predicted to be around USD 1351.8 billion, with a CAGR of 11.2 percent between 2021 and 2026. For years, increased consumer spending across regions had fueled smartphone marker sales. According to a new report published by Jumia, Nigeria’s largest online store, the number of mobile subscribers has reached 150 million, while the number of internet users has risen to 97.2 million, with penetration rates of 81 percent and 53 percent respectively. Nigeria’s rapidly expanding mobile internet user base demonstrates the country’s market potential. Nigeria currently has 62.2 million more internet users and 52.1 million more mobile users than Egypt. It also has 65.3 million and 110.78 million internet and mobile subscribers respectively, compared to Kenya. Similarly, according to the latest numbers from global technology and consulting services business, International Data Corporation, smartphone sales into Nigeria grew 13.7 percent quarter on quarter (QoQ) in Q3 2020 to nearly 3 million units (IDC).
Given this, if the FG seeks to diversify the Nigerian economy through this latest development ICT, it would be a very promising and rewarding venture. Advanced economies have already adapted to technological developments and prioritised them to offer their businesses a competitive advantage in the global market, while their developing-country counterparts are still striving to gain access to this system. This is due to lack of a framework for overseeing technology that can deliver economic and social benefits in those countries. Nigeria, as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, is embracing emerging technological advancements as the driving force behind the country’s digital economy initiative. One agency responsible for this is the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), tasked with developing a framework for the country’s planning, development, regulation, monitoring, and advice on all IT-related matters and practices for the sector’s overall development. NITDA is considered a forward-thinking government entity that is always planning to keep the country and its residents up-to-date with the needed resources to grow and stabilise the economic fortunes, thanks to some of these programmes.
Without a doubt, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and its agencies’ synergy has contributed to the ICT sector’s significant influence on the national economy. It is almost certain that the ICT industry can overtake oil and gas as the country’s top foreign exchange earner if the Ministry and NITDA maintain their current agreements and collaborations.
To capitalise on this commendable development for economic progress, the government must take steps to boost public confidence in local technology. Nigeria’s large super-wealthy communities should be encouraged to invest in such initiatives.