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Alternative Plan: How FG Can Use Social Intervention Fund to Accelerate Nigeria

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Wole Ogunlade
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It occurred to me that this current administration has only four years to make good on its agenda of CHANGE.

With over 1 year of that time spent already, the results so far did not look like the job of transforming Nigeria would be a walk in the park as the election campaigns made us all to believe. 

For example, if we take a look at the area of job creation for youth, from what I can see, not much has really changed in the lives of the average Nigeria youth as current unemployment rates grew worse to 51%.
Thankfully, the federal government of Nigeria seems to be getting their hands dirty trying to fix this. That’s why I took interest in the N500billion social fund; the government’s consolidated social intervention fund capped at N500billion that covers six aspects including: Teach Nigeria Scheme; the Youth Employment Agency; Conditional Cash Transfer; Micro Credit Scheme; Home Grown School Feeding; and Free Education Scheme for Science Students. I am aware that the smartest brain are behind this project, with direct supervision from the office of the Vice President, but I don’t think this money will be well spent nor achieve any major benefit to the economy, based on how it is structured.

Let me explain.
A breakdown of the N500billion shows where the majority of the money will be spent. It might be of interest to you that the YES initiative (N10billion), building of 12 ICT hubs (N15million per one) and STEM programme have meagre allocation from the N500billion fund, yet these are what I expect to have the larger portion to help in creating new industries that will diversify our economy.

It literally seems that the bulk of the fund is for aids: feeding school children, and monthly allocations to others. While it is morally difficult to argue against supporting the less privilege, but how far do you think that the government’s approach of giving aids to its own people instead of empowering them accelerate the economy?

Raise your hands if you think that all the aids that Africa received from US and Europe helped us out of poverty. Many of such aids never really transform the African economy like when the average citizen is empowered with skills.

The message at that level is “not to give aids, but to partner…..”. Andrew Rugasira, CEO of Good African Coffee said it better on CNN and his book tour interview, as he noted that “the solution to Africa’s economic challenges will only be met by Africans innovating and creating valuable products, services and brands at source”.

The same analogy applies to this N500billion “handout” as it seems that the bulk of this money will be spent as aids, and there are so many things that could go wrong, just like the recently scrapped fuel subsidy. But the critical questions to ask is “what values are created after spending half a trillion naira? “

One of the most incredible mathematical equations I learnt is the compound interest. The equation emphasizes the impact that time has on the value of money. So, we are not only destroying the value of the N500billion, we are also not taking advantage of what its future value could be, if spent wisely.

Partnerships not Aids: a new way of thinking CHANGE
I am of the school of thought that government should double up critical investment on socially empowering initiatives that focus on building talents that solve national problems, as these problems, if they remain unsolved will make us dependent as a consumer nation.

One of such social programme is YouWin! I am not in a hurry to say YouWin was successful, but a World Bank report and an expert analysis later, it looks like the world’s Largest Business Plan Competition – YouWin! -compared favorably against benchmarks as a viable job creation tool.

We should implement more of these initiatives and build a structure to make it a critical part of our GDP acceleration programme. Mr President believes that agriculture holds an immense potential for the growth of our economy.

Yes, I agree, but I am biased towards technology, because tech entrepreneurship is responsible for the growth of the most developed economies of the world. That is why the baby steps we have taken in this direction by all agencies of Government, especially under the auspices of NITDA including #StartupFriday, Aso Villa Demo Day and Technology Exchange programme (i.e GOTEX), should be sustained.

We have a lot we can learn from other nations, including supposedly “developing” economies like Chile that started a tech acceleration programme dubbed StartUp Chile which annually brings the best startup founders to launch their programme in the Latin American country, and India who are are building a government that relies on Technology.

We must encourage and support the youth to innovate, and solve local problems with global excellence. This will come at a cost to government. In addition to grants; it will imply granting concession, tax-rebates and “free trade zone” status to early stage startups; encouraging local investors to invest in our startups by giving them tax breaks for those investments like what is obtainable in Europe where high-net individuals that invest in local startups and keep their investments up to three years can benefit from rebate up to 50%. In Turkey, it is reported to be as high as 100%.

But if you ask me, we barely compete on major metrics we should focus on to accelerate Nigeria through technology innovations, instead, we have joined other African countries in attempts to ban everything from the “social media gag bill” to stifling home-grown technology like Remita that wants to help government’s finance become more transparent.

Another casualty of our policy is a young Nigeria with a marketplace business model for digital imagery using drones, but the policy against drone will never make his business to take off. And there are several of us, who are hurt, made lame and efficient just because we are waiting for light (PHCN) to be switched on so that we don’t have to bear the burden of fueling and maintaining generators which for most of us take away 45% of our business expenses. Add to all these challenges, our “doing business” index is so bad to the extent that local startups are choosing to be incorporated in US or elsewhere with one of them Andela, almost getting it’s Nigeria identity “lost in transit” due to this.

This is where I believe we should spend the better part of Nigeria’s intervention fund and make policies to make it happen, so that we (the youth) can create the future for Nigeria.

AUTHOR BIO: Wole Ogunlade is a growth strategist for early-stage startups; he writes about growth marketing topics on his personal blog,SpokenTwice.com and also contributes to leading tech blogs in Nigeria and diaspora. He is a mentor at the 2nd edition of the Tony Elumelu Foundation programme for entrepreneurs. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter @spokentwice.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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E-Business

Gartner Predicts Global IT Spending to Grow 1.1% in 2019

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Worldwide IT spending is projected to total US$3.79-trillion in 2019, an increase of 1.1% from 2018, according to the latest forecast by Gartner.

“Currency headwinds fuelled by the strengthening US dollar have caused us to revise our 2019 IT spending forecast down from the previous quarter,” said John-David Lovelock, research vice president at Gartner. “Through the remainder of 2019, the US dollar is expected to trend stronger, while enduring tremendous volatility due to uncertain economic and political environments and trade wars.

“In 2019, technology product managers will have to get more strategic around their portfolio mix by balancing products and services that will post growth in 2019 with those larger markets that will trend flat to down,” said Lovelock. “Successful product managers in 2020 will have had a long-term view to the changes made in 2019.”

According to Gartner the datacentre systems segment will experience the largest decline in 2019 with a decrease of 2.8%.

The research and market analysis firm says this is mainly due to expected lower average selling prices (ASPs) in the server market driven by adjustments in the pattern of expected component costs.

The shift of enterprise IT spending from traditional (non-cloud) offerings to new, cloud-based alternatives is continuing to drive growth in the enterprise software market.

In 2019, the market is forecast to reach US$427-billion, up 7.1% from US$399-billion in 2018. The largest cloud shift has so far occurred in application software.

However, Gartner expects increased growth for the infrastructure software segment in the near-term, particularly in integration platform as a service (iPaaS) and application platform as a service (aPaaS).

Lovelock added, “The choices CIOs make about technology investments are essential to the success of digital business. Disruptive emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), will reshape business models as well as the economics of public- and private-sector enterprises.

“AI is having a major effect on IT spending, although its role is often misunderstood. AI is not a product, it is really a set of techniques or a computer engineering discipline. As such, AI is being embedded in many existing products and services, as well as being central to new development efforts in every industry.

Gartner’s AI business value forecast predicts that organisations will receive $1.9 trillion worth of benefit from the use of AI this year alone.”

In November 2018 Gartner said IT spending in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) would reach US$973-billion in 2019, representing a 2% increase compared with 2018.

Lovelock was quoted at the time as saying: “2018 is not a good year for IT spending in EMEA. The 5.8% growth witnessed in 2018 includes a 4% currency tailwind driven by the euro’s increase in value against the US dollar.”

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SON to Deploy Technology to Achieve Operational Efficiency

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Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has kicked off the process for the implementation of electronic demand notes, receipts as well as ports and borders operations clearing processes.

 

This is as part of efforts to enhance a seamless service delivery to stakeholders through improved synergy within its operational units.

 

A statement from the media unit of SON said that Osita Aboloma, director-general of SON, stated this in Lagos at a strategic meeting on the deployment of the solutions.

 

The statement hinted that the transitioning to the electronic demand note and receipt as well electronic ports and border operations would mitigate challenges faced by customers and clients of SON and promote greater efficiency in service delivery.

 

Represented by Mr. Kabir Mohammed, director in the Director-General’s office, the SON Chief Executive posited that the electronic platforms would create a business solution tailored around SON services, aimed at achieving the Organisation’s strategic goals.

 

Introducing the proposed solution, Mr. Mike Aigbe, deputy managing director, Vatebra Limited, said the organisation had helped in creating similar solutions for organisations in Nigeria and other African countries in the last 15years.

 

Aigbe said the company’s objective from the outset was to create a payment engine that could be plugged into all manner of applications for the processing of financial transactions for Organisations, including SON, he said.

 

He listed some of the Organisations that had benefited from the company’s electronic solution services in Nigeria as including the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

 

He stated that the strategy meeting with Heads of Departments and Units in Lagos Operational Headquarters was a follow up to an earlier one at the Corporate Headquarters, Abuja to interact with process owners and gather data in order to customise the proposed solutions to their specific needs.

 

The Vertebra Deputy MD enumerated the achievable gains from the proposed electronic processes solutions which include eliminating human intervention in the processes for greater efficiency, cost savings on printing of manual demand notes and receipts and elimination of the stress associated with moving from point A to B  to obtain demand notes and receipts.

 

He stated that the electronic solutions project, which is expected to be deployed within 45 to 60days, would also attend to the compulsory need to join the International Public Service Standard (IPSAS) by the SON.

 

SON Heads of departments and units provided input on their various processes to the Vertebra Limited team in furtherance of the electronic services solutions.

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NITDA to Empower South East Youths on ICT Skills with Start-Up Friday

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National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) on Wednesday, said the agency is set to empower youths within Enugu and the South East region with Information Communication Technology (ICT) skills through its Start-Up Friday (SUF) programme on April 26.

 

SUF programme is a technology entrepreneurs’ gathering designed by NITDA and implemented by its subsidiary —Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE).

 

Dr Amina Sambo-Magaji, national coordinator of OIIE, in a statement in Abuja, noted that “the SUF in Enugu, would be the last round of igniting the six geo-political regions across the country.”

 

Sambo-Magaji said that the SUF, being the 12th edition in a series, would ensure that ICT start-ups within the region were encouraged and supported by government.

 

She added that SUF was part of the agency’s activities aimed at developing the technology ecosystem across the country.

 

“The programme is not just for Enugu but also Abia, Anambra, Aba, Ebonyi and Imo states. This completes the first round of our regional technology ecosystem ignition.’’

 

According to her, OIIE will carry out an evaluation to analyse feedbacks from the programmes at the end of the SUF in Enugu.

 

She also said that the SUF would be hosted in collaboration with ICT hubs and universities in the South-East region, which was targeted at bringing together the regional ecosystem stakeholders.

 

The national coordinator added that through the programme, participants would be given the opportunity to pitch their business ideas, where outstanding innovators would be identified and supported by the agency.

 

“Innovators stand the chance to submit their pitch decks and get seed funds to get their start-up off the ground to prototype, to working product and commercialisation.

 

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