- A Nigerian minister has urged African leaders to increase access to information and communication technology (ICT) - but his country's own scheme is floundering because of inadequate government support.
At a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, last week (16 March), Frank Nweke, Nigeria's minister of information and communications, called for access to cheap ICTs for every African citizen in line with the objectives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development.
Nigeria took steps toward increasing ICT access last year, with the launch of the Computer for All Nigerians Initiative. It aims to increase the number of computers in the country, which according to the International Telecommunications Union is as low as seven per 1,000 inhabitants.
But local manufacturers say the government is failing to support the initiative. Computers built in Nigeria are still expensive and low awareness for the initiative has led to a lack of demand.
Florence Seriki, managing director of Omatek Computers ¯ one of two local manufacturers collaborating on the initiative ¯ says Nigerian laptops sell at about the same price as imported ones.
"Everything is supposed to be discounted, because we are assembling the parts here, but the cost of manufacturing is very high," Seriki told SciDev.Net. She cited a lack of a steady power supply, the cost of running a generator and import duty payments on equipment and software as reasons for this.
The government had agreed to remove import duty for the scheme, but this promise has yet to be fulfilled.
The Nigerian government sponsored almost US$1million worth of computers for its public servants last year. Local partners are also collaborating with some banks to enable citizens to buy a computer by opening a bank account and paying by instalments.
Nigeria is also preparing to start its satellite communication project with the launch of a communications satellite in May. Developed with support from the African Union, it is set to serve telecommunications, broadcasting and broadband communications across Africa.
Nweke said the satellite project holds great promise and will ensure that African nations are competitive in worldwide communications network growth and not isolated from the global economy.
Turner Isoun, minister of science and technology, said the satellite would allow Nigeria to export bandwidth worth US$50 million to other African countries.
"This is very important for us because it will create jobs, it will create wealth and it will position Nigeria to compete globally," Isoun told SciDev.Net.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.