By Emmanuel Okwuke, Senior IT Correspondent
The federal government has assured on its commitment to encouraging local content as part of its transformational agenda even as it extols Omatek Computer Plc for firming up Nigeria’s chances at being part of the global digital economy.
Nigeria’s Minister of Communications Technology Mrs. Omobola Johnson on a courtesy visit to Omatek’s new multi-billion naira factory in Ikeja, Lagos, said companies like Omatek have committed huge investment in driving goals that are part of government’s agenda for transforming the economy, creating jobs and creating wealth; therefore, government would do everything to promote and protect such companies. Government would foster growth of local computer companies, the impressed minister said after a tour of the two Omatek factories in Lagos.
“There is a huge market for local content. Omatek has made investment. What we need to do is to ensure that there is a ready market for already produced computers and solar panels. I am very impressed with what I have seen. I have just been to Otigba and I have seen the huge market for local content,” said the minister while interacting with the media on site.
The minister who was in Lagos on familiarization tour of several computer companies and West Africa’s biggest ICT hub, Otigba Computer Village, Ikeja, said her visit has further broadened her understanding of the potential and challenges faced by local manufacturers.
At the Omatek factory, the minister inspected the assembly lines, the quality test laboratory and other sections of the factories including the designated portion for solar panel production for which Omatek has made huge investment to address the country’s electricity challenges particularly as they affect the diffusion of ICT projects.
“This just shows what is possible in Nigeria. I have seen young employees fully engaged in the production of desktops and laptops; it shows what is possible in the device market. What I have seen here can compete with any product from any part of the world. They are using the best components. Local content creates jobs and products. This is part of the transformational agenda of the government. If we double the prospect for what is done here, it creates jobs and create more market; job creation is wealth creation,” said the minister inside the Omatek factory,
“My ministry is trying to get Nigeria to leverage ICT infrastructures, we are trying to divest the economy and move into digital economy and the only way you can do that is to have broadband infrastructures and you need to have devices that can access the broadband infrastructures,” she added.
Omatek Computers Plc was founded 25 years by Mrs. Florence Seriki. The company is commemorating its Silver Jubilee in its new factory to consolidate on its achievements and its extensive presence in Nigeria. The company remains the only quoted Computer Company on the Nigeria Stock Exchange. It has led the increasingly competitive Nigerian ICT market as the only company in East, West and Central Africa that produces computers and casings from completely knocked down (CKD) components sourced from the highest grades of manufacturers to give all Omatek computers the requisite world-class standards comparable to any other foreign brand.
Since it entered the competition, Omatek has grown to become one of the continent’s leading brands. With a factory presence also in Ghana as part of the company’s pan-African vision, Omatek has won global accolades including the endorsement of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as a driver of technological change in Africa. From software giant Microsoft, Omatek also got recognised as the No.1 PC manufacturer in the West and Central Africa (WECA) region.
While speaking on the company’s challenges during the minister’s visit, Mrs. Seriki said the company remains undaunted by challenges and seek to work with government to achieve its transformational agenda. But government has the obligation to promote local companies driving local capacity and local content.
“Our own main competitors are the foreign brands; we are not an SKD factory. We are a completely knockdown factory. We are the only factory in Africa that produces chasses, speakers, cases from completely knocked down processes. We buy components from first class factories, so a lot of volume is required from us; huge volume is required from us because for you to sustain quality and to maintain buying from this first class factories they have what they call minimum order quantity which we have to maintain.
“Funding is a local challenge because banks won’t fund hardware makers and besides the interest on loans starts from 20% while abroad it is 3% which makes foreign products to have a competitive edge. Government can intervene by driving the local content and local patronage policy to generate demand and strengthen the local companies, said Seriki while thanking the minister for finding time to identify with key investors in the hardware sub-sector of the ICT industry.
She canvassed for reduced duties for computer local companies to give them some competitive margins over wholly imported foreign competitive products. Funding does not exist in the country. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Communications Technology need to work together to secure the interest of local brands; we drive technology transfer and skill acquisition,” she said.
Seriki who is currently the president of the Information Technology (Industry) Association of Nigeria (ITAN), said Omatek has remained consistent in meeting the industry’s challenges. She said the Omatek Factory has come up with various initiatives to drive and sustain the Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) requirement of the First Class Manufacturers of Raw Materials. One of such initiatives is the Omatek e-Xpress consumer scheme designed to assist Nigerians own computers through a convenient payment plan which spans between 12 – 24 months. She assured that in its new factory, Omatek will continue to grow local capacity and local content in its push to drive support for made-in-Nigeria ICT products.