After waiting on the budget for a long period, it was finally signed and revealed to the public. While the actual metric to ascertain which sector receives what may be lost on us, it is quite safe to assume that the budgetary allocations were based on the needs of each ministry and sector. However, for all the talk about technology being the new oil and gas, it only managed₦15.9 billion (₦9.9 billion recurrent expenditure and ₦6 billion capital expenditure) in the grand scheme of things (Six Trillion, Seventy-seven Billion, Six Hundred and Eighty Million Naira).
In an ongoing sectoral debate on diversification of the country’s economy at the House of Representatives on Wednesday in Abuja, the minister of communications and technology – Adebayo Shittu – disclosed that the Ministry of Communications is drafting a bill to unbundle Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure. A bill of sort would not only increase private sector participation in ICT infrastructure building but also a giant stride towards ensuring that the sector contributes more to national building. He also made remarks on how the sector have suffered from obsolete laws – which apparently have been the greatest challenge confronting the sector — and that the government needed to spend to unlock the potential in the sector.
From what has been said, it would be pointless arguing against those very facts. But it also pertinent to note that for a country meaning to leverage on technology to shore up its ailing economy and also stay abreast of its developed counterparts, ₦6 billion budgetary allocation earmarked for capital expenditure on ICT would appear all too small. And with that, we could question the government’s seriousness or understanding of the roles of ICT towards nation building. Be that as it may, any hasty conclusions would negate the government’s intention — some of which may have been well thought of. So we can only assume that the Minister is looking for intelligent ways to lessen the sector’s financial burden or achieve a plan for which it’s been bestowed with little financial warchest.
From an overview there are a lot of works to be done in the ICT sector to actually justify the private sector emergence, especially in this growing age of technology where everything is running too fast for the government to handle alone. Needless to say that the government needs to make do on its promises (like the vice president’s promise to create more technology clusters in the country). But beyond that we hope to see a situation where an investment in educational technology, a provision of a friendly environment for young innovations to thrive amongst others sits on top of government’s to-do list. ₦6 billion may be small to cater for ICT infrastructure in the country, but it also seem like a lot in the hands of the government to provide the basics. So unless these money aren’t ending up in different “Ghana must go bags” as have been the case, we expect that the small budgetary allocation would be a blessing in disguise of sort to innovate on technology. Beginning with the proposed bill.
Whichever is the case, the coming days would tell. So our fingers are crossed on this one.
Jan. 18: Bonus Built in Africa episode: Town Hall meeting with Peter Salovey, President of Yale University
On March 25, 2021, Techpoint Africa will be hosting the brightest minds in decentralised finance/crypto at the Digital Currency Summit tagged “Building the money of the future” Click here for more details, registration and sponsorship. Location: Fourpoint by Sheraton, V.I. Lagos.