The Director General/CEO, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi has said that Nigeria currently has the capacity to harness its talent pool into a global talent factory with the capacity to earn over $40bn annually.
The NITDA Director General stated this while speaking as a panellist at the 16th ǼLEX Annual Lecture on Wednesday.
The lecture, which was held virtually, was themed “Digital Economy: Africa’s Catalyst for Regional Growth and Transformation.”
Abdullahi observed that there was currently a vacancy of about four million programmers globally of which Nigeria had the capacity to produce two million which could be plugged to the global value chain.
He further made reference to a PwC report, which noted that an average tech developer or programmer earns between $30,000 to $150,000 per annum.
According to him, PwC confirmed that if Nigeria could have two million developers working remotely, with each earning about $20,000, the country could as well generate over $40 billion annually, which was a significant amount capable of addressing the country’s forex challenge.
“The digital economy is about innovation, about people, about talent. So, talent is the people component of technology which I think is where Nigeria will have the competitive advantage over any nation in the world,” Abdullahi said.
“Globally, we are not there yet but with what the government is doing like the Startup Bill and other initiatives we have put in place, I think Nigeria is going to be there and we should be seeing ourselves as top players in the digital economy,” he said.
Citing a recent study by Korn Ferry which projected an 85 million talent deficit globally, the NITDA boss said all developed countries would suffer from this shortage with countries such as Brazil and Japan having about 18 million each. He noted that the global deficit was likely to reach $8.5 trillion of which Nigeria could benefit by capitalising on its huge availability of human talent and young population.
In his assessment of the top five biggest tech firms in the world, including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Meta, Abdullahi observed that their total valuation was over $9 trillion.
“If they were a nation, they would be the third-largest economy in the world because no country has $9tn, except the US and China,” he said.
As such, Abdullahi said Nigeria needed to identify where its strength was.
“Like in Nigeria, our strength is in talent. We cannot compete with them when it comes to manufacturing, but we can compete in talent. Can we make Nigeria the global talent factory? I think we can. So if we can work on this, Nigeria can become the global talent factory, supplying all these big techs with the talent they need, and also compete favourably when it comes to the digital economy,” he said.
Speaking about how NITDA is fostering technological talent, Abdullahi said the organization has launched its one million developers project with the goal of enabling one million Nigerians to participate in the global value chain. He added that the program was concentrated on developing talent in cutting-edge fields like data analytics, robotics, blockchain, and artificial intelligence, which he described as essential to the digital economy.
“All these are disruptive technologies. They are going to change the way we live, work and do business. And they are foundational technologies, they cut across so many sectors,” he said.
Abdullahi noted that NITDA was working on the National Digital Economy Bill, aimed at providing the legal framework for the digital economy to thrive. He also called for constant review of legal frameworks and implementation of policies that support digital transformation and establishment of institutions producing human capital through digital literacy and capacity building.
“We need to have institutions that will produce the human capital, because the digital economy is about innovation, it’s about people. So you need to add people with talent ideas that will be part of the ecosystem to help build the economy,” he said.
Abdullahi also urged business owners, startups, and venture capitalists in the IT sector to form alliances aimed at developing and funding innovative ideas.
He emphasized that the government had two main responsibilities, including intervening in the area of legal framework, policies, and regulation, and providing infrastructure to unserved and underserved communities. He further encouraged the government to provide the enabling environments for everyone so that the ecosystem could flourish.