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National Mirror www.nationalmirroronline.net

Info Tech

Thursday, August 30, 2012

35

Hope rises for local computer brands Recent activities embarked on by the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology seem to have rekindled industry hope that government is ready to support indigenous computer firms with good policies for better competitiveness with foreign brands, writes KUNLE AZEEZ.

I

ndigenous computer manufacturing sub-sector of the Nigeria’s Information and Communication technology may be on its way to glory if the current working of the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Communication technology go through. Over the years, indigenous computer brands such as Zinox, Omatek, Brian, Beta and Veda, have been faced with countless challenges raging from lack of enabling operating environment due to overt infrastructural challenges in the country. Others are lack of favourable government policies to drive patronage, especially by the private sector, poor access to funding and lack of duty waiver on importation of Completely Knocked Down, CKD, computer parts by the original equipment manufacturers. Indeed, the harsh operating environment of Nigerian computer makers, which also shoots up the cost of production, has also made it extremely difficult for them to have fair pricing for their products even as foreign brands ship their computer brands into the country for sales, having enjoyed favourable government policies in their respective countries during production. These challenges have conspired against the ability of the indigenous computer brand owners to compete favourably with their foreign counterparts such as HP, Dell, Acer and the likes, whose operations in Nigeria have contributed to capital flight in the nation’s ICT industry, since, money realised in Nigeria by the foreign computer brand owners are repatriated to develop their respective economies. The operating condition of indigenous firms is appalling as investigations revealed that as at 2011, only about 500, 000 computers had been manufactured by them, however, foreign brands were said to have sold millions of their Personal Computers and desktop computers in the country. It is noteworthy that the consistent clamours by the indigenous players for a proactive government intervention directed mainly at fostering the growth of local OEMs, had not received adequate attention from the government, albeit effort was made during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to drive computer acquisition in the public institutions through patronage of local computer brands. However, the scheme which some computer firms such as Zinox and Omatek benefited from, which obviously boosted their performance in terms of sales during the period, became a forgotten idea after he left office in 2007 and since then, there has been a general lull in the production volume and sales by indigenous computer forms since their patronage has been poor. Meanwhile, the need to bring about a turnaround in the computer manufacturing sub-sector in Nigeria, informed the recent serial visit of the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson, to the offices of the local computer brand owners to assess their operations vis-a-vis the challenges being faced so as to ascertain the kind of policy to put in place that will make them more competitive and boost their patron age for economic development. As a culmination of the various visits, the minister undertook a-day tour of the local Otigba Computer Village Market at Ikeja, during which she expressed shock on finding out that most traders in the market were hardly stocking Nigeria-made ICT products. The minister’s visits were part of the plan to unfold a student computer ownership scheme for local com-

Regha Seriki

Ekeh

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS KEEN ON INTRODUCING DUTY WAIVER ON IMPORTATION OF

IT PARTS BY THE

INDIGENOUS COMPUTER FIRMS AS WELL AS PUTTING A NEW MANUFACTURING INTERNATIONAL STANDARD IN PLACE TO BOOST THEIR COMPETITIVENESS puter makers in October, with the aim of building demand for indigenous computer companies. Lamenting during the Otigba Market tour, the minister said: “My biggest disappointment is that there were no enough Nigerian brands in most of the offices and shops I visited at Computer Village. I think we need to get Nigerian devices into the hands of Nigerians and that is what I really want to work on with necessary stakeholders to achieve.” She, however, said the Federal Government is keen on introducing duty waiver on importation of IT parts by the indigenous computer firms as well as putting a new manufacturing international standard in place to boost their competitiveness. “We are already doing something called IT Devices Assembly Status, which if you can prove to us that you assemble IT devices here in Nigeria, you get zero per cent duty on the importation of such products. That arrangement is already there, it is just a case of resuscitating it allows bonafide assemblers of IT devices in this country, to get that waiver. And of course, if this arrangement has been passive before now, we are working on resuscitating it in order to better grow the industry faster,” she said. She said the ministry had set machinery in place, through the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to ensure the international quality standard, thereby boosting the patronage of computer devices manufactured in Nigeria. The new policy, it was learnt, will make it illegal for any government Ministries, Departments and Agen-

cies, to patronise foreign computer brands, where similar products are readily available in-country on the stable of indigenous OEMs, will also contribute to the growth of the nation’s IT sector. Meanwhile, stakeholders in the indigenous computer manufacture ring sector have pointed out key area where their shoes pinch them. The Group Managing Director, Omatek Computers Plc, Mrs. Florence Seriki, who blamed poor funding of indigenous computer and Information and Communications Technology products manufacturers in the country as a major threat, said lack of funding from banks for local ICT products manufacturers was the bane of local content development. Seriki canvassed for reduced duties for local computer companies to give them some competitive margins over wholly imported foreign products. “Funding does not exist in the country. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Communications Technology need to work together to secure the interest of local brands; we drive technology transfer and skill acquisition,” she said. Chairman of Zinox Group, Mr. Leo Stan Ekeh, said apart from introducing zero duty regime for the local OEMs, and intensifying efforts at solving power problem in the country, government should also create digital activities that will drive patronage “We are not saying government should bail out. We don’t need a bail-out. Rather, what we need is favourable policies and for government to create digital activities that will speed up computer acquisition and usage in the country with adequate patronage of indigenous computer brands by the government. Government must support what we do to transform Nigeria into a digital economy,” he said. Speaking on the development, the Assistant General Secretary of the Computer and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria, Mr. John Oboro, who attributed the slow growth of indigenous computer brands to government insensitivity to implementing policies that can drive growth in the industry, argued that in other countries, such as the United States, in spite of their high level of development, zero duty regime was in place. He said, “Modern economy is woven around ICT and the success of economies in the 21st Century will, to a large extent, be anchored on how well an economy has been able to support indigenous IT industry with good policies.”

Thursday, August 30, 2012  

All the fact,...all the sides

Thursday, August 30, 2012  

All the fact,...all the sides

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