ICT Development Should foreign investors buy into Nigeria's smart cities project?

The government wants foreign investors to buy into its smart cities project — and it is not playing around either, according to Adebayo Shittu.

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Communication Minister Adebayo Shittu play

Communication Minister Adebayo Shittu

(Pulse)
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Considering just how underdeveloped Nigeria is (amongst the many, many problems the country has), it’s a bit surprising to see that the government is searching for foreign investors for a ‘smart cities project’. 

But that is what the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu is saying — the government wants foreign investors to buy into its smart cities project — and he says the government is not playing around either.

Telecoms mast play

Telecoms mast

(Web4africa)

 

I have had the privilege of speaking with a lot of foreign investors persuading them to come to Nigeria because Nigeria offers a lot of advantage in terms of the huge population.

On the West African sector of the African continent, Nigeria’s population is more than that of the other 14 countries. That means that there is a huge market and any investor who comes will never regret,” says the good minister, according to a New Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report. 

Nobody is opposing progress, but news like this seem a bit redundant at this point. All they do is repeat an oft-told story of misplaced priorities and misguided forays into pointless ventures championed by clueless, obstinate leaders. How and why is this even a thing?

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Well, Rwanda is getting on that boat and Oga Shittu is looking to replicate such a feat here in Nigeria. Never mind that Rwanda has a total population of 11 million (that’s half the population of Lagos) and a 6.9% GDP growth rate (Nigeria only has 2.7%) and the completely non-existent basis for attempting to replicate — we have bigger fish to fry. Remember how Vodafone has struggled to replicate M-Pesa outside Kenya? 

Rwanda’s blueprint on its smart cities program says a smart city is “meant to integrate available technologies at every level of urban management.” Mr. Shittu’s first point of call on the so-called “Smart Cities” project is solar-powered base stations. For the love of God, we have not even figured out how to install functioning solar-powered streetlights — talk less of base stations.

President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibanjo sworn-in at Eagle Square, Abuja on Friday May 29, 2015. play

President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibanjo sworn-in at Eagle Square, Abuja on Friday May 29, 2015.

(Emmauel Ifenyi)

 

Nigeria has a well-documented power problem; which is why I assume we are going after wholly solar-powered ‘smart cities’? Because that is the only logic that supports pursuing a project such as this in a country of 200+ million people with an output of barely 4000MW. There is also the sheer difficulty that comes with doing business in Nigeria — we are ranked 169 out of 190 countries by the World Bank — but you want foreign investors. 

In a country where cost of internet is still astronomical, majority of population still lives on less than $2 a day and the legislative arm plans to spend N55 million on ‘souvenirs’, N777 million on photocopying machines, N9 billion on ‘wardrobe allowance’, and N197 million for “budget coordination activities,” is this what we should be considering? 

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