Hot Posts

Awaiting Tinubu’s one million digital jobs

ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, in this article, writes that the country eagerly awaits the one million digital jobs promised by President Bola Tinubu during his administration’s inauguration in 2023, even as ICT sector battles myriad challenges.

Perhaps it may appear too early to judge President Bola Tinubu’s performance under one year in the saddle of leadership of this country, but the fact remains that Nigerians can no longer wait. They are fast running out of patience. The dividends of democracy have long eluded the larger percentage of the populace in several ways.  

  This gap has necessitated the need to constantly remind those at the helm of affairs of the need to buckle up to meet the ever-increasing demands for social amenities, including job creation.  

Indeed, during his inauguration on May 29, 2023, President Tinubu announced his administration’s readiness to create one million new digital jobs for the economy in the first two years of his reign. As it is, one year has gone already. Of course, there is no doubting the capacity of Mr President to do the magic, but the next 12 months would be a pointer to what is in stock for the sector.   Digital jobs are created through the application of information and communications technologies (ICT) to a new or existing activity or process. Between 2020 and 2022, Nigeria was said to have witnessed the creation of 2.2 million digital jobs. This was during Muhammadu Buhari’s regime. This feat was traced largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, which created a new culture of work, where people had to work from home and make use of the Internet.   In its 2020 industry report, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said: “The year 2020 witnessed a significant surge in data usage… The increase in data usage is directly linked to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted normal activities and most functions had to be held virtually including schools and corporate meetings, among others.”   It is interesting to say that the contributions of the ICT sector to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) have been on the rise. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said the sector added 16.66 per cent to GDP as of the last quarter of 2023.

  According to Groupe Spécial Mobile Association (GSMA), the mobile sector accounted for 13.5 per cent of total GDP in 2023, including the direct value-added by wider ICT industries and the sector’s impact in enhancing the productivity of other sectors. Overall, GSMA said the mobile sector’s total contribution to GDP is estimated at N33 trillion in 2023, with N2.4 trillion in tax revenue contributions.   President Tinubu in August 2023 appointed young and tech-savvy Dr. Bosun Tijani to champion a new course for the ICT sector and drive his (Tinubu) vision for the next four years.

What 3MTT has contributed ON assumption of office, Tijani announced several initiatives to jump-start the industry, whose nomenclature was changed to the Ministry of Communications, Innovation & Digital Economy. The addition of innovation to the name brought a new spark with the hope that it will indeed reignite the passion of Nigerians for creativity.   Parts of Tijani’s agenda included the Three Million Technical Talent (3MTT) programme, a critical part of the Renewed Hope agenda of Mr. President to create two million digital jobs by 2025.   Specifically, the programme was executed as a fellowship model in collaboration with NITDA. In line with the Ministry’s 1%-10%-100% implementation approach, this first phase trained and placed 30,000 technical talents, representing one per cent of the overall target. In the second cohort, 270,000 were selected, bringing the number to 10 per cent. The train is expected to be complete by 2027 and millions of talent, subsequently be unleashed on the economy.   From the 3MTT initiative, some of the skills Nigerians are being trained on include skills that utilise technology to enhance various roles without directly involving tech creation. These include Digital Marketing, Project Management Software, Cloud Platforms Navigation, Data Analysis and Visualisation, Digital Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), CRM Management, Accounting Software, Graphics Design, and UX/UI Design, among several others.   While the buzz and feedback around the 3MTT initiatives have been interesting, the Tijani-led ministry has yet to inform the public of the number of jobs created since the initiative took off for better assessment and appraisal. 

Additionally, in supervising the ministry, he is also pushing Nigeria’s AI agenda. In December 2023, the minister announced that the Ministry in its bid to make Nigeria a global leader in AI, had identified over 6,000 AI researchers, who are of Nigerian descent and based in several parts of the world.      In April, the Federal Government gathered 120 Nigerian researchers and startups including other stakeholders in the AI space to develop a co-created framework for its adoption in the country.      Tijani also announced the relaunch of new and improved capacity at the National Centre for Al and Robotics (NCAIR) to better fulfill its mandate. The Centre is a special-purpose vehicle created to promote research and development on emerging technologies and their practical application in the areas of Nigerian national interest. 

Is the telecoms sector neglected? Some industry stakeholders are worried that nothing much is coming from the Tijani-led ministry in tackling the challenges facing Nigeria’s $76 billion telecoms sector, the backbone of the entire economy.   According to them, probably because the minister’s background tilted towards software and startup development, not so much attention is coming the way of the telecoms sub-sector, the reason the industry is still overburdened by the application of about 50 different taxes and levies; Right of Way issues remained largely unresolved; increased foreign exchange losses by service providers, increased energy cost and the inability of mobile network operators to increase tariffs 11 years after the last one.   At a telecoms meeting in Abuja recently, Tijani objected to a tariff hike, saying such is not an option and should not be the only solution to the challenges facing the industry.    The minister, however, said the government was aware of the challenges facing the sector and assured that it would address them step by step. According to him, “I have noted all the challenges as articulated by all critical stakeholders. I have an appointment to see the President and I will discuss the challenges with him. But a hike in telecoms tariffs is not an option and should not be the only solution on the table.   “We appreciate the importance of this conversation, and we will continue with it so that we arrive at solutions that can drive the industry to the benefit of all.”   Already, the Federal Government is to launch a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for the delivery of an additional 90,000km of fibre optic cable to complement existing infrastructure and increase connectivity across Nigeria.   Tijani said this would increase Nigeria’s fibre optic cable capacity from 35,000 kilometres to 125,000 km, making it Africa’s third-longest terrestrial fibre optic backbone behind South Africa and Egypt.

Stakeholders lament, suggest IN a chat with The Guardian on Monday, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, said the industry faces significant challenges. “We are facing the biggest test and threat that the industry has ever experienced since deregulation. Our regulator is standing to the test, but other stakeholders must work together to move the industry forward. The blame game will not help the growth of the industry. A house divided against itself cannot stand.    “It has been more of speeches of promises. We are challenged in more ways than we have ever been in recent years,” he stated.On his part, Science, technology and Innovation (STI) Policy Advisor and Founder of, Jide Awe, in addressing the challenges facing the sector, the minister should promote and encourage a “local content,” innovation culture, and mindset in education and society. He should play a leadership role in promoting linkages and collaborations among the education, private sector, research, and government sectors to drive innovation, research, and development to solve societal challenges. This could include continuous professional development, the development of future-of-work capabilities, and updated curricula for the education system. A national system of innovation is more impactful than the present system of silos. To achieve this, inclusive, national, systemic, and innovative approaches are required.”

  Awe noted that it is important that the innovative culture in society extends to regulation not just products and services, saying the minister should prioritise innovative regulation that balances the fostering of innovation and ensuring fairness and competition in the sector. Such a regulatory approach should attract foreign investment in the tech sector. Regulation must be able to adapt to changing circumstances and foster innovation.   According to him, Tijani needs to ensure that tech policies are simple, clear, consistent, and long-term. These policies, he said, should encourage innovation and provide a predictable environment for businesses, stressing that unclear or inconsistent regulation can create uncertainty for businesses and discourage investment and innovation.   “Stakeholder engagement should be used by government to be transparent about ICT/Telecom policies and their goals. Not a one-way approach but enables stakeholders to actively communicate, provide feedback and contribute to policymaking and implementation. Develop strategies with stakeholders, not to them,” Awe noted.   While prioritising long-term development in the ICT sector, Awe said Tijani should also find ways to leverage the increasing digital consumer adoption and mobile Internet penetration, saying this can be achieved by promoting the use of digital services in all spheres.    “By doing so, he can address real needs and create tangible benefits for society, such as reduced cost of living, increased job creation, development of business opportunities and expanded learning opportunities.   “He should seek international collaborations with nations, global tech companies, and institutions to attract foreign investment, additional resources, expertise, and opportunities for Nigeria’s tech sector, all while aligning with Nigeria’s strategic interests,” he stated.

Post a Comment