Stakeholders at this year’s annual West Africa Convergence Conference (WACC2017) have submitted that as different technology platforms continue to converge, development of technology skills, especially amongst the teeming youths in the country through effective converged regulatory environment will help to harness the new deals of convergence and grow the economy. KUNLE AZEEZ reports
As technology continues to converge across industry verticals with an increasing need to thicken the value of entrepreneurship and employability, an effort that can be effectively achieved if Nigeria is able to manage and turn the various challenges thrown up by the convergence trend into opportunities that can lead to the growth of technology skills that would help the country to unleash pent-up digital opportunities for the large number of youths in the country.
This was the crux of discussions by stakeholders, who spoke on different industry issues in Nigeria around the theme of the event: “Convergence and the New Deals: Entrepreneurship and Employability.” The sponsored event is organised by Knowhow Media and Market Intelligence International Limited (KMMIIL).
All the speakers, who looked at the theme from different perspectives, addressing sub-themes, were all on accord that effective management of the rising technology convergence ecosystem is needed to unlock its potential for economic growth.
Understanding tech convergence
Convergence is the delivery of telecommunications, information technology, broadcasting and other media technologies, sectors and services that were hitherto operating in parallel and independent of one another now on the same platform.
“Convergence enables established companies to increase in efficiency, have greater returns on technology investments, realise other business benefits through development of new services and rapid market expansion, open up new sales markets, drive revenue growth, create jobs, and generally impact on socioeconomic advances.
According to the coordinator of the programme, Mr. Segun Oruame, the annual sponsored-event has been designed to address critical and topical issues that are being thrown up as a result of technology convergence sweeping across the world. He said this year’s focus was to see how convergence is impacting employability and entrepreneurship.
Developing tech skills
Speaking on the theme of the event, the Chairman, ICT Committee at the Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Mohammed Onawo, said the development of technology skills in the country, especially amongst the teeming youths will help to harness the new deals of convergence and grow the economy.
Onawo, who stated that at least, around 1.8 million youths enter the labour market every year, stressed the need to enhance “our state of preparedness for the converged space through digital skills development as convergence is already enabling new forms of work and altering the structure of jobs.”
He said : “We must, therefore, join hands to thicken the value for skill and new career training, expand the portfolio of opportunities for employment and businesses; encourage innovation and drive more flexible forms of employment and work.”
He explained that without skills development, Nigeria cannot develop and she further risks building an army of disgruntled and angry youths to undermine her national security.
“Skills development that is aligned with industry requirements is a catalyst that can ensure economic growth; and skills adequately channeled at meeting changing dynamics of an industry or an economy, imply the ability to foster new careers that can contribute positively to the economy,” he added.
Technology re-ordering labour market
Hon. Onawo who was addressing participants at the industry stakeholders-packed event noted that as technology convergence is re-ordering the labour markets and making it more innovative, there’s need for collaborations between the public and private sector, both local and global to help Nigeria as a country fully leverage its dividends in businesses and employment.
“Individuals, companies, and governments must re-strategize to be able to reap the benefits of these changes. As a country, we must begin to seek new partners; local and global, to help us advance the new technology agenda influencing employment and businesses,” he noted.
“We must maximize the positive impact of technology and industry convergence on employment and businesses. We must get everyone involved, policymakers, business operators and regulators, medical practitioners, educationists and trainers, manufacturers and innovators, legislators and other stakeholders,” he added.
He said convergence is often seen as exerting pressure solely on the regulatory systems, but it is not so, as the World Bank has noted that the human capital systems, social systems, and financial systems are equally being refined. So in all these fronts, we must all be alert and ready to exert the necessary change for good.
Onawo said that lawmakers recognise their role in setting the tone to encourage the growth of new opportunities for Nigerian citizens who must leverage on technology to be productive and globally competitive, and the legislators do not shy away from encouraging this new direction and new way of thinking within the confines of the knowledge economy.
Building converged IT infrastructure
However, most stakeholders at the event pointed out that to achieve high IT skill development and thereby getting Nigeria’s teeming young population engaged, existing infrastructure has to be strengthened and this role falls squarely on government agencies.
According to them, how well the industry regulators such as the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and other agencies such as the Nigeria Communication Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT) and Galaxy Backbone under the Ministry of Communications, will go a long way in the country having robust technology convergence infrastructure.
Interestingly, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, has stated that the Commission was finalising subsidy agreements with two of Nigeria’s infrastructure companies: MainOne, and IHS Services Limited for the Lagos and North central zones respectively in a way that would facilitate affordable access to more than 30 million Nigerians as part of the agenda to speed up Nigeria’s broadband target for 2020.
While there has been arguments over what approach the regulator should adopt on technology convergence, Danbatta said the NCC’s position is to have an engaging and open attitude to innovation and disruptive technologies in the realisation that it’s in the market’s interest to encourage innovation.
His words: “Emerging technologies are innovations driven by convergence, which facilitate creation of new markets, value networks and businesses; improves products and services in innovative ways that the market never anticipated. Acknowledged as the most important development essential for socio-economic advancement and well-being of any nation, some of the technologies are mobile Internet, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud technology, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles, automation of knowledge work and so on.”
Taming obstacles to infrastructure deployment
Basically, the Association of Telecoms Company of Nigeria (ATCON) decried the over-taxing of telecoms companies as well as the exorbitant charges on right of way (RoW) as key factors hindering the growth of IT infrastructure in a convergence era.
President, ATCON, Mr. Olushola Teniola, while speaking at the conference, said if heavy taxation and RoW remain unaddressed, most telecommunications companies will eventually be stifled out of business beginning 2018.
“In Nigeria, our problem is basically getting basic connectivity and if we continue to tax we will never get it right. That’s the issue that we have. The biggest problem and an impediment for everyone here to know is the issue of right of way,” he said.
Most private sector players at the event acknowledged the need for NCC, NITDA and the necessary departments of government to have a convergence-compliant policy direction to ensure that RoW is suppressed and multiple taxations are removed so that the citizens can enjoy the benefits of technology convergence, which requires corresponding deployment of IT infrastructure that help to unlock the benefits of technology convergence.
TCIP Customs explains cargo clearance delays at port
The Tin Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service has said the recent in cargo clearance being witnessed by importers and Customs Brokers at the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports in Lagos is because the NCS Internet Server was down thus impeding cargo documents processing.
This was disclosed by the Tin Can Island Customs Public Relations Officer, CSP Tony Ejesieme during a chat with the Sunday Telegraph on Wednesday at the port city of Apapa.
Ejesieme noted that the internet network breakdown as experienced by the Service could cause delay at anytime and was not the fault of the NCS but that of a bad weather.
The PRO, who admitted that there was delay in cargo release, said the command had not captured any importers for cargo release but was optimistic that the network would surge back and cargo clearance processing would commence immediately.
“We have not been able to work since morning as no importers have been captured. This is another delay; issuing debit note has become a problem. But the network will certainly come back and we will commence work immediately,’’ said he.
According to him, the major reasons for delay were non-compliance with import guidelines, wrong classification and declaration by importers, and lack of working scanners.
He, however, absolved the Service of any complicity and maintained that the NCS works based on procedure. ‘’Whatever we are doing is based on procedure and in accordance with the import laws. It is true that there is delay; if there are issues of infraction, there will be delay,’’ he said.
Ejesieme also caused by lack of scanners, saying that all scanners in all the ports in Lagos have broken down completely except only one in Apapa which could not handle all cargo in the port and that is why many cargos are routed to physical examination.
‘’Scanners are not working; only one is working in Apapa, no one in Tin Can. The issue of scanners has to be settled and we have engaged government on it.’’
Advising importers and customs agents to adhere to the import guidelines, he said that the security of nation as the nation approaches the general elections in 2019 would not be compromised as the Service is working with other government agencies to protect the territorial boundaries of the nation.
UBA Foundation reading through regions in Africa
As part of its mission to improve the lives of communities in which the United Bank for Africa operates, UBA Foundation said it has continued to encourage African youths to adopt the culture of reading through its ‘Read Africa’ initiative.
Read Africa aims to rekindle the reading culture amongst young Africans. Designed and introduced in 2011 by the UBA Foundation, the initiative has donated hundreds of thousands of books to African schools since its inception.
This past week, The Foundation took its initiative to the francophone city of Libreville to the students of the George MABIGNATH high school in Gabon.
The launch of Read Africa in Gabon saw in attendance, the author of the selected book Sidonie, written by famous Gabonese writer Chantal Magalie MBAZOO.
It was a colorful ceremony that witnessed the CEO of the Foundation, Bola Atta reading to and interacting with the students in high energy in the presence of their Principal, Mrs. Boudounghou Biboutou Isabelle and other staff members.
Bola Atta summarized the Foundation’s initiative saying, “At the UBA Foundation, we are committed to improving the lives of the youths on the continent and one of the ways we can achieve this is to help you read more. I am here to talk to you a little about the importance of reading and how it can radically change your life. Reading encourages you to dream, it expands your knowledge, your vocabulary. It is a path to achieving your ambitions”.
Chioma Mang, the CEO of UBA Gabon also reiterated the mission of UBA and emphasized the bank’s commitment to the Gabonese community. “ I love children and I am happy to be here with you all today. I’d like to encourage you to read very well so that you can reach great heights in your life like me. UBA is going to be there for you all the way. You can count on us”, she said.
The Read Africa initiative then moved on to Zambia to the Horizon Secondary School in Lusaka where the Director in the ministry of higher education in charge of Vocation, Education and Training, Mr. Alex Simumba, thanked UBA and the Foundation for the good work that is being done across Africa. He said, “To UBA Foundation, we thank you for your support to the institution today. We welcome this and many more collaboration in the field of literacy and other higher education programmes. We also further encourage other private sector organisations to take a keen interest in such programmes because the youths who are receiving these literary materials will be benefitting greatly from them,” he said.
Shell has disbursed N1.88bn to GMoU clusters in Delta State
The General Manager, External Relations, SPDC, Mr. Igo Weli has said that Shell Petroleum Development Company, (SPDC) is still active in Delta State noting that the oil giant has executed a lot of projects in the state.
According to him, the oil giant has disbursed a total sum of N1.88 billion to Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) in clusters.
Igo Weli, who disclosed this when he spoke with newsmen in Warri on Thursday, revealed that the GMoU funding covers the three clusters currently active in Delta State since the inception of the concept in 2006, adding that Cluster Development Boards (CDBs) like their counterparts in other parts of the Niger Delta, are implementing health and educational projects among others.
During the media presentation of the 2018 Shell Nigeria Briefing Notes to Journalists, he also disclosed that Shell has established a Professorial Chair at the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE,) as it continues to operate in the state and contribute to its development.
Weli explained that the Professorial Chair in Light Weight Automobile Engine Development was activated at FUPRE in December last year and is the latest of six established by SPDC JV, noting that the Chair at Effurun is expected to contribute to the growth of local content in Nigeria’s automobile industry.
He added that in a bid to boost employment especially among youths, more than 700 young men and women have benefited from Shell’s LiveWIRE initiative between 2003 and 2017.
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