In the second edition of the series ‘The Things They Did That Made Them Giants’, we zone in on the service sector as we discuss the sine-qua-non role of foreign governments in advancing key service industries in their countries. The idea is to draw lessons from the stories of the giants as we make recommendations to bring about effective change in Nigeria’s service sector. Albeit the remarkable growth the sector has made in the last decade, there is more potential to generate employment and exports, and advance domestic technologies and human resources.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Industry, China
China’s ICT market is currently the world’s second largest ICT market and is expected to reach $844 billion by 2020. Since the mid-1980s, the Chinese government has been promoting the ICT industry through a three-pronged strategy – investing in local tech companies, promoting research and development, and incentivizing foreign investments into the Chinese tech space. The government mandates that foreign companies turn over their technology in exchange for access into the Chinese market; the technology eventually features in Chinese products and operational processes.
Over the last decade, Nigeria’s ICT space has experienced tremendous growth typified by the hike in internet and telecom uptake, proliferation of strong tech-businesses in Yaba (our homegrown Silicon Valley) and elsewhere, and more recent developments like mobile banking. However, consumers face difficulties with access, availability, affordability and quality of data, internet and telecom services. According to industry stakeholders, the biggest challenges are low broadband penetration and the near absence of fixed telephony companies which have caused an over-reliance on wireless technology and mobile networks in delivering good quality voice, data and internet services.
Policy and regulation is a critical area in the ICT space. Stakeholders have raised concerns about the low participation of ICT-related government agencies in streamlining and implementing the legislation on ICT. The comprehensive 2012 National ICT Policy touches on the important areas of regulation and policy, infrastructure, and research and development but its execution has been below par. From taking zero action on creating a consolidated national digital archive to the lackluster development of local talent in software development, the Policy has failed to achieve many of its objectives.
Non-profit Sector, United Kingdom
The non-profit sector is an important aspect of every economy. The sector provides employment and public services to communities. In the United Kingdom, the Charities Commission is responsible for matters concerning non-profits. The Commission is a non-ministerial government department which ensures accountability and the regulatory compliance of non-profits. Consequently, the integrity and excellence of the Charities Commission fosters public trust in non-profit organizations.
On the contrary, Nigeria’s non-profit sector is reeled with a lack of public trust. The proliferation of non-profit organizations combined with weak regulation to monitor the activities of non-profits has failed to build trust in the sector. This has led to missed opportunities as prospective local and international partners look to credible and verified organizations to drive impact. Presumably, effective policy and regulation lies at the root of the growth of service industries.