Last week, the minister of communications stated at a technology forum that over 400 federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are now connected to the internet (yes, you just saw 400).
As true as this may be, many more still are not connected. When you think Nigerian civil service, you think nepotism; therefore, you don’t necessarily have to be qualified for the job, you just need to know the right people. This is why the civil service is filled with unmotivated middle-aged men and women who are not computer literate. This has so eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian government that federal agencies have year in year out recorded low productivity.
Many startup owners have constantly complained about how frustrating dealing with federal agencies can be. Here are a few of their challenges.
A huge pile of paperwork
Some government agencies still run the paper filling system which is not only tedious and time-consuming but also prone to human error. These errors would mean starting the process over again and spending above the estimated budget. Many government agencies don’t use computers to store their data so there are lots of forms to fill here and there.
These processes can easily be done online but most civil servants are not computer literate, hence still stuck in their old ways. Although the government has in the past charged public servants to become computer literate, the progress is still very slow.
Many Nigerian startup owners have constantly complained about how time consuming dealing with government agencies can be. From running from pillar to post to make payments and filling forms to stamping one document or the other, a lot of unnecessary time is put into these processes. After waiting in their office from 8 am, the “official in charge” could waltz into the office at 10 am and still act like they are doing you a favour by attending to you.
Although some of these agencies have websites, a big percentage of their operations still take place offline. The Corporate Affairs Commission ( CAC ) for example has a website which has a name search feature where new business owners can go to check for the availability of their business names before they can be registered.
Notwithstanding, startups owners still have to deal with officials during the subsequent steps of business registration, a process that could take weeks to complete.
Corruption is one of the biggest problems we face in Nigeria, it has become like a second nature to most government officials who expect bribes before they can do the jobs they are paid to do. This is a huge problem for most startup owners who are tight on funds and trying to legalise their businesses. They have to make off-the-books payments to these government officials before they can be attended to and those that don’t offer bribes would usually be delayed.
The Nigerian government is barely supporting tech startups, the least they can do is to make their dealings with them a little bearable.
This is a call to federal agencies to do better. To those start up owners who are yet to go through these processes, brace yourselves and get ready to be frustrated!
Jan. 18: Bonus Built in Africa episode: Town Hall meeting with Peter Salovey, President of Yale University
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