A leading professional services firm, PwC Nigeria, has said that programmers and software developers in Nigeria could attract up to $50 billion from Global Value Chains (GVCs) in the next 10 years through remote work with Nigeria projected to provide two million remote workers within ten years based on the market size and the growth potential of the industry.
But the big question is, where is the skilled manpower in Africa’s most populous black nation?
REMOTE! reporter, Bamidele Citizen, takes a look at the complex problem.
Digital literacy is basically the first step for any individual to compete in today’s world of advanced technology. Despite the huge potential inherent in the industry and the knowledge that the world is quickly tilting to an era where everything and everyone will require some sort of computer-driven component, the areas of specialization are not well defined and the skills are not included in many learning curricula in Nigeria.
The PWC report is apt to let us know that Africa’s most populous black nation can get a large slice of the global pie, but how prepared is Nigerian to sit on the table and dine with our chest out alongside countries like the United States, Japan, China et al?
It is important to note that for the majority of Nigerian youth, put at 70% of the country’s population of 206 million people, according to the National Population Commission (NPC), the closest to being IT savvy is owning a smartphone, being able to efficiently gamble on football betting sites and actively use social media apps.
Unemployment, naturally a major catalyst for diversification into the creatives, is at its highest in the nation’s history at 33 percent, with the number of unemployed individuals placed at 23 million, quoted from a report by Jobberman in collaboration with Young Africa Works and Mastercard Foundation. Is the PWC report something for the unemployed and underemployed to be ecstatic about?
It’s a two-way street. A collaborative report between the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the National Bureau of Statistics across the six geo-political zones of the federation states that out of a total of 23.4 million people surveyed; only 1.3 million are certified IT professionals, skilled in areas like web design, graphics, Artificial Intelligence, multimedia, networking and software engineering.
Figuratively, only 1.3 million skilled individuals out of a pool of 23 million will over the next 10 years stand a chance of attracting $50 billion to Nigeria; what happens to the remaining 22.7 million individuals? Isn’t this a huge untapped pool?
Another PwC report titled: “Nigerian Brain Exports: The Optimal Path to Growing the Nigerian Economy” notes that exporting brain capital to the global market will put Nigeria on the path to becoming a developed nation in record time due to our large population with an average age of 19 years, giving Nigeria significant brain capital advantage over countries like Germany, Japan, Italy, and the United States.
Yes, the size and youthfulness of our population offer great potential to expand Nigeria’s capacity as the regional economic hub of Africa and globally, but wait, what are our 19-year-olds being taught? Are there enough specialized trainings? At what cost?
The Federal Government, the main provider of basic education in the country, has constantly talked tough about ICT learning in its public primary and secondary schools. Minister of State for Science, Technology, and Innovation, Henry Ikoh, recently said six technology centers were established across the country to improve the nation’s competitive index in the global market, but in a country like Nigeria, where the government pays lip service to infrastructure maintenance, awarding over bloated contracts for substandard hardware, the centers will unlikely stand the test of time.
The private sector is unarguably the saviour, according to many independent analysts, to link recruiters to brain capital. But how many private companies offer these trainings, and how affordable are they?
Mobolaji Tenibiaje, Faculty Consultant for Alluvium University, a software development and support lab which recently graduated its first set of tech engineers, with headquarters in Ekiti State, explained to REMOTE! that these pieces of training can be expensive, especially with separate payments for tutoring, examinations and certificates, and in dollar equivalents.
He recounts how his Oracle Certification cost him about N400,000 in 2008, including accommodation expenses in Abuja, the country’s capital, and his choice to go ahead because of the inherent benefits, also highlighting the cost of procuring hardware and software, which he described as investments to be recouped over time.
But the costs can often be frightening and might scare off young intending professionals Tenibiaje says his parents had to assist with some of their savings, also highlighting the work done by some Tech companies and foundations offering scholarships, and chances for full-time paid employment and freelancing.
“At Alluvium University, we’ve identified some of the brightest minds with a passion for ICT/Tech, and given them fully funded scholarships, from the lectures to the hardware, i.e, laptops, equipment, also accommodation facilities, feeding and living allowances, in Ekiti State, far from the noise and rush of Lagos, the so-called Tech Capital of Nigeria, (laughs), to enable them to excel in Python and Programming, and I must add they’re ready to get their own slice of the global tech pie”.
Tosin Adara works with the JayTee Ojo Foundation, where the founder, Otunba JayTee Ojo, an Ikoro-Ekiti born IT engineer resident in the United Kingdom, is channeling his desire to energize computer literacy in public secondary schools, with training for th3 students complete with free laptops, classes, and internet facilities.
“The truth is state governments and the Federal Government have done their bit in trying to provide computer literacy, even at the basic level, but the infrastructure can be expensive at some point, and the other big question is, to what extent are they willing to go? Because these platforms might not go beyond the basics, and more than that is needed by the respective intending professionals to foray in the huge global ICT tech waters”.
Studying Tech/ICT is no child’s game. With hours of dedication and brain-tasking exercises, it’s not an arena for the faint-hearted or weak-spirited. Nigeria will not be served a la carte. Government at state and federal levels, tech companies, institutions, and companies who want a share of the $50 billion ICT global value chain projected in the next ten years must put in work to train the professionals to get their share of it.