CONSUMER TECH Spotlight | What hope for Made-in-Nigeria phones?

CONSUMER TECH Spotlight | What hope for Made-in-Nigeria phones?

CONSUMER TECH Spotlight | What hope for Made-in-Nigeria phones?

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Are Made-in-Nigeria phones clicking their way into the hands of consumer technology buyers and millions of the mobile family in the country?

There is no doubt that nothing boosts the economy of any country like being able to produce and manufacture majority of the local consumption.

That way, capital flight will be reduced and also increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.

These government policies to encourage Made-in-Nigeria products cut across all sectors, including the information and communication technology (ICT) industry where an Act was passed in 2007 establishing the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

This many times has been explained in many quarters as one of the major reasons the Nigerian currency, the Naira has over the time continued to lose its value relative to other currencies because we are more or less a consuming nation with little to produce for ourselves and other countries, leaving crude oil as our only major export.

Successive governments  have developed so many policies and guidelines in different sectors of the economy to encourage local production and ensure that Made-in-Nigeria goods dominate our markets.

These government policies to encourage Made-in-Nigeria products cut across all sectors, including the information and communication technology (ICT) industry where an Act was passed in 2007 establishing the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

By this Act, NITDA was given as one of its cardinal mandates “to encourage local production and manufacture of IT components in a competitive manner in order to generate foreign earnings and create jobs.”

RLG Easy 62 Mobile Phone Pack, one of the Made-in-Nigeria phones gaining market traction among consumer tech buyers in the country
RLG Easy 62 Mobile Phone Pack, one of the Made-in-Nigeria phone brands gaining market traction among consumer tech buyers in the country

The need to become less dependent on imported products has never been more critical than now that our major import which is crude oil has been on a free fall in the global market and making our currency the most unstable, resulting in a current exchange rate of N485 to $1 (at parallel market) and inflation at about 18.33 percent.

Mobile phone manufacturing is one area that if Nigeria can really leverage, will no doubt add a significant improvement to the country’s GDP.

Nigeria is home to one of the world’s fastest growing mobile telephony consumer markets has 152,800,848 active phone lines at the end of August this year, according to information by the telecoms regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

NCC market information reviewed by Technology Times shows the mobile telephony market upsurge also fuels growth of various categories of mobile handset brands across Nigeria.

NCC market information reviewed by Technology Times shows the mobile telephony market upsurge also fuels growth of various categories of mobile handset brands across Nigeria.

This begs the question if government campaigns on Made-in-Nigeria products has refocused this key sector of the economy and its potentials to be a major contributor to GDP.

The questions kept growing: How much of the policies designed to promote this course is actually being monitored to see to its adherence? Has the general public and corporate organisations been effectively made aware of these policies? Has the campaign for Made-in-Nigeria patronage been taken to the grassroots? Are there really Made-in-Nigeria mobile phones and if there are, are the people aware of it?

All these questions led Technology Times to undertake a fact-finding mission to Computer Village in Ikeja, the nation’s biggest technology market clusters sited right in the heart of the nation’s economic capital, Lagos.

The intention was basically to find out if there has been any significant impact made by the ‘Buy Naija to grow the naira’ which has become a popular mantra in the country.

There couldn’t have been any bigger place to find anything about mobile phone if not the Computer Village squeezed in-between several streets like Oremeji, Ola-Ayeni, Otigba, Olayi Tomori and Pepple in the Ikeja area of Lagos.

I set out from my office at the Opebi area of Ikeja heading to Computer Village to satisfy my journalistic curiosity.

On my arrival at Computer Village, a lot of thought came to my mind as you watch the massive influx of people into the technology market.

Many retail shops were  involved in marketing shows, making the market to have a carnival-like atmosphere as some Santa Clauses and Mascots were seen dancing around.

For a moment I almost forgot why I came to the market but I was quickly reminded of my mission to the market and I immediately headed for some of the mobile phone retail shops within the market.

Aerial view of Computer Village in Ikeja

3C Hub, a mobile phone retail shop where I entered had lot of people who had trooped in to buy phones. It became another challenge to get one of the shop attendants to talk to me as all of them were busy attending to customers.

On realizing that it will be almost impossible to get these busy attendants talk to a journalist at that moment, I too had to come in as another customer.

Finally, one of the attendants on sighting me standing in one of the stands approached me and asked what I wanted. Fortunately I had bought a Gionee P5W smartphone for N26,000 from the shop not long ago and I told the attendant that I wanted to know the current price of the phone to which she replied N35,000.

I couldn’t imagine the kind of laughter the attendant bursted into after which she said to me in Pidgin English, “Bros where u hear that one before say Nigeria dey produce phone?” She insisted that there is no such thing as Made-in-Nigeria phones.

I asked her why the price increased in such manner she looked at me in a manner that seem to convey that I had just asked a dumb question. She answered back in Pidgin: “No be this country you dey? You no sabi say exchange rate don affect price for market?” Translated, that would mean are you not in this country? Are you not aware that exchange rate has affected price in the market?

At this moment, her reply has landed her at the particular place I wanted and I said to her, if the cost of import and forex hassles is the case then let’s turn to Made-in-Nigeria, our own locally-manufactured phones. I couldn’t imagine the kind of laughter the attendant bursted into after which she said to me in Pidgin English, “Bros where u hear that one before say Nigeria dey produce phone?” She insisted that there is no such thing as Made-in-Nigeria phones.

Nigerian dual-SIM phone, Maxtel MX-3

Of course there are Made-in-Nigeria phone brands like Pliris Mobile, Maxtel, Obi Mobile, Imose, Bryte Mobile and RLG Phones and Slok, the latter which according to information I gathered is owned by former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Ozor-Kalu.

It goes straight back to one of my earlier questions on how the government is driving home the Made-in-Nigeria product awareness. Are there really Made-in-Nigeria phones and if there are, are consumers aware?

Of course there are Made-in-Nigeria phone brands like Pliris Mobile, Maxtel, Obi Mobile, Imose, Bryte Mobile and RLG Phones and Slok, the latter which according to information I gathered is owned by former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Ozor-Kalu.

My findings however shows that while one or two of these companies have their factories in Nigeria like the RLG which has its plant in Osun State, others like Obi and Slok are what I can refer to as Made-for-Nigeria and not Made-in-Nigeria. The latter have their phones produced in China and other countries and imported into Nigeria, according to what I gathered from the phone sellers.

Since the other attendant I encountered didn’t even believe there are Made-in-Nigeria phones, I entered yet another shop and requested for a Slok mobile phone.

Lo and behold the attendant pointed to someone holding a mobile phone and said to me, “that is the last Slok phone I have and that man is about to buy it.”  So I said to him, that means that people are actually buying Made-in-Nigeria phones.

Buying and selling activities at computer village

Just like the other attendant, he too laughed and said, “Don’t be deceived into believing that there are made in Nigeria phones. We know Slok is a Nigerian company but the phone is not made in Nigeria.”

Just like the other attendant, he too laughed and said, “Don’t be deceived into believing that there are made in Nigeria phones. We know Slok is a Nigerian company but the phone is not made in Nigeria.”

So does it mean that even most phone we are told are Made-in-Nigeria are rather Made-for-Nigeria by other countries and are still being imported?

Many other phone sellers as well laughed off the idea of Made-in-Nigeria phone, but at least many of them agreed that they sell the RLG phone brands which of course they didn’t know are locally-manufactured.

And at this juncture, I turned my attention to consumers and asked what if they know there are Made-in-Nigeria phones, would they be willing to buy?

Responding to my question, Mr. Chima Ezenwa who was in Slot shop at the Computer Village to buy a phone told me he will buy a Made-in-Nigeria phone but until he sees one.

“Until there is one, for now I don’t know any Made-in-Nigeria phone. My take is that even though people tend to be particular about foreign things, if there is a Made-in-Nigeria phone that I have seen someone use and it served him very well, of course I will buy it and I know other Nigerians will buy it,” Ezenwa says.

Another phone buyer at the same shop, Mr. Olatunji Alao also told me that he will have no problem buying a Made-in-Nigeria phone provided it is up to the standard of those that are made somewhere else.

“Why won’t I patronize what is being manufactured in my country. Since it is my country that would be my own way of supporting the economy to grow, but it must be up to standard. Even it should be better that what they bring in from China,” Alao says.

What my experience at the Computer Village is pointing out to me however is that there are still many uncovered ground in our quest to be self reliant in terms of products, especially Made-in-Nigeria phones.

Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)
Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)

The government needs to do better in creating an enabling environment for equipment manufacturers. The epileptic power supply alone is enough to discourage anybody that may want to start producing anything in Nigeria.

The policies earlier designed for promotion of local content should be examined and an improvement should be made where there is need. The relevant agencies should be ensured that those policies are followed to a reasonable extent where we can start seeing positive results.

Finally, the effort in awareness of Made-in-Nigeria products should be redoubled. It is quite evident that a lot of Nigerians are not even aware of the few gadgets that are actually being manufactured in the country.

It is equally a challenge to companies that manufacture these products to get their marketing strategies right in order to get their products to be purchased by Nigeria’s growing mobile family thereby growing the Nigerian economy.

Donatus Anichukwueze Technology Journalist at Technology Times Media Phone No: 08074016066 e-mail: donatus.anichukwueze@technologytimes.ng

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