Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ekeh warns ECOWAS on digital colonisation


GROUP chief executive officer, Zinox Group, Dr. Leo-Stan Ekeh, has cautioned members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the imperatives to ensure that the sub-region is not digitally colonized at this 21st century.

Speaking recently in Lagos, Dr. Ekeh who was represented at the West Africa Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Congress (WAFICT) by the Managing Director, Zinox Technologies, Mr. Mukoro Emomine, said that Information Technology (IT) education and access must be enshrined as a fundamental human rights in the Constitutions of all nations in the sub-region.

According to him, all profitable sectors of the economy should be included as significant contributors to the National IT Development Fund (NITDEF), advocating that special and legalized preference for local IT professionals, locally assembled hardware and software applications should be upheld.

ECOWAS member countries, he said, should make certain that anti-trust Act is embedded as a significant part of the local content laws, while West African IT professionals in the Diaspora should be encouraged to become significant part of the outsourcing services commissioned by governments and corporate persons.

Government, he said, should invest heavily in ICT penetration following the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) model in the country.

Ekeh noted that in West Africa, regional unity is seen as a possible solution to the continent’s deep and prolonged economic and social crisis.

“The ICT revolution should gather momentum from the private energies that are being released as a result of the strengthening of civil society and privatization of national economies,” he said.

Decrying increased state-imposed barriers to inter country flows, he said, this has undermined regional trade and cooperation.

He cited an instance that a hardware manufacturing plant in Nigeria should ideally service Ghana, Liberia, Gambia and Sierra Leone.

“It would not make economic sense to set up plants in each of these countries,” he declared, stressing that the principles of economic integration require that resources are conserved for the common good, that facilities are replicated only when it is absolutely necessary.

He pointed out that there exist an ultra nationalist tendency that finds expression in the setting up of huge import tariffs for finished goods within the ECOWAS region, astronomical business registration fees and multiple taxation, labour requirements that are often more stringent than those laid out for Africans in Europe.

Ekeh said, other unhealthy conditions for doing business help to inhibit economic integration in the sub-region, maintaining that governments must be less paranoid and in doing so, they tutor their people that there are indeed larger benefits to grain from cooperation and integration if we must build the technology base to confront global competition.

“The Council of Heads of West African States must immediately investigate the reasons that led to recent media report on Wednesday, May 26, 2010, which suggests that there are tough policies driving businesses back to their home countries,” he said.

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