Nigerian tech sector's unfulfilled potential

Government urged to play a role - to overhaul school courses, create financial incentives and upgrade infrastructure.

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    Abuja, Nigeria - Food logistics start-up Food-I-Like, which runs an online food delivery service in Abuja, is among just a few companies to have been successful in Nigeria's tech sector.

    Using her own money, Biebele Somiari set up the service, which allows customers to call up and order from 30 local restaurants, then have the food delivered to their home or office.

    "The mobile penetration has made it so that there's a need for convenience," says Somiari.

    Nigeria: Offline library opens access to all

    "There's a need for delivery. There's a need for that provision of logistics in terms of the meals for consumers."

    Somiari received help from an organisation called Enspire.

    It is a government-funded project aimed at helping entrepreneurs learn the basics of computer programming to help them develop online businesses.

    So far it has helped over 50 businesses get started but the project's manager, Bankole Oloruntoba, says more needs to be done to attract potential investors.

    Oloruntoba says many Nigerian investors only want to invest in things they can see, like real estate or oil, and that they fail to see the long-term potential of the sector.

    "You need to have patience in tech businesses," says Oloruntoba.

    "Tech businesses are likely going to be the real-estate businesses like we have now. Most investors are stuck on brick-and-mortar kind of businesses."

    Financial incentives

    Bashir Yusuf, technology analyst, says the government should play more of a role.

    "The government needs to overhaul the entire school curriculum for it and technology so that the next generation of student workers is better equipped," he says.

    Yusuf says the government must also focus on creating financial incentives to lure investors from around the world to Nigeria.

    In 2007 the government awarded a contract worth $100m for the construction of a technology village near Abuja. It was meant to house over 1,000 tech businesses but very little has been built.

    The Nigerian government also has large infrastructural problems. These include chronic electricity shortages which force many homes and businesses to rely on expensive diesel-fuelled generators.

    The country has also seen little investment in fibre-optic cables, which means the internet remains slow and expensive for most users.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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