Sahara reporters recently published a list of detailed ministerial and presidential budgets for 2016 . When Muyiwa asked me on Monday to take a look at the budget for the Nigerian Ministry of Communication Technology, I didn’t know what to expect. Or, I knew what to expect and wasn’t sure how I would react.
Well, I looked at the budget, but I won’t tell you how I reacted. By the time we’re done looking at some of it together, I’m sure you will feel the way I felt without me telling you how I felt.
The first thing I noticed about the allocation for ‘Communication Technology’ was that it was confusing. There were three different total allocations: the first was ₦15,997,128,516, the second was ₦15,965,909,120, and the last was ₦15,878,644,350.
I’m not very good with numbers and I hate to stare at them for too long; I can’t do it without getting depressed. So, please, imagine my state of mind after going through this confusing budget. Anyway, let’s go on.
62.3% of the total allocation is for recurrent expenditure; that’s ₦9.9 billion. The remaining 37.7% (₦6 billion) is for capital expenditure. Ergo, majority of the budget will be going to maintenance of personnel and existing infrastructure at the Ministry of Communication Technology (NIPOST and the Nigerian Communication Satellite are under this umbrella).
Now, here’s the shocking (or not shocking) part of the narrative. The only obvious attempt at promoting technological innovation in Nigeria is the construction of ICT centres in Anambra, Gombe, Kaduna, Osun and Oyo states. One centre will be built in Anambra state, two in Kaduna and two in Gombe, three in Oyo state, and four in Osun.
A total of twelve ICT centres were budgeted for. After looking at that, I wondered if those ICT centres were, in fact, tech hubs. Remember that in December 2015, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo mentioned the Federal Government’s plan to replicate tech hubs all over Nigeria to accelerate the creation and growth of startups.
However, when you find out that each of those ICT centres has a budget allocation of ₦15 million, you start to wonder how possible it is for them to be tech hubs, or for those ICT centres to be anything more than prison cell-sized rooms with litters of desktop computers here and there.
It seems to me that if we want the tech industry in Nigeria to continue its tremendous growth, we need to look away from the government. At least, for now. There’s nothing in that budget that says they are concerned about helping us. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s a copy of the budget allocation for Communication Technology. Take a look at it and let me know what you think in the comments section below.
Be the smartest in the room