The question as to whether the Nigeria’s tech ecosystem can truly develop without steady power supply has always been agitating my mind.
This question keeps coming up because of the epileptic power supply that has consistently been the lot of the citizens of this country for way over 5 decades now. The epileptic power supply has constantly left most of our small, medium and large scale businesses in Nigeria in dire straits. This is because they power their businesses with generators which run on fuel and this shoots up the operating/running expenses of these businesses.
It is no longer news that many industries in Nigeria have either closed shop and relocated to other countries that have relatively stable electricity or disengage a number of their staff and increased the work load of those remaining in a bid to reduce operating/running cost.
This is happening in a country where we already have a very high rate of unemployment. The news gets worse when the reality stares us in the face that, unless the government, through the NERC and the Discos, Gencos and the Transmission companies gets their acts together and cooperate, coordinate and synergize to give us the much required stable electricity supply, more businesses are likely to die, be irrespective of the field of endeavour.
It is worthy to note that, without steady power supply, there simply cannot be any significant technological advancement or innovation and in the same vein, no section of the power ecosystem, (generation, transmission, distribution, billing, the regulator or what have you), can work effectively and efficiently without inputting modern technology. They are all partners in progress.
In many climes, people in government have come to recognize that stable electricity supply is the fulcrum on which many businesses depend, to enable them deliver optimally at relatively cheaper prices. Electricity is also seen as the chief driver of technological innovations that has given birth to the Internet of Things.
This has now turned the universe into a global village through internet connectivity. The Internet of Things is set to take the world by the storm in the next two or three years’ time, when your household gadgets, such as your refrigerator, electronic doors and gates, Television, Microwaves, etc., will be interconnected.
Without stable electricity, I do not see how we will be able to cope in Nigeria in this regards as connectivity is dependent on the availability of electricity supply.
Today, within the twinkling of an eye, you can transact and close business deals with anyone, anywhere in the world, without leaving the comfort of your home through an internet-connected computer device, powered by electricity.
Technology and its variants of innovations, of which electricity is a major one, I have always maintained, has come to make our daily living a lot easier.
There is no doubt that the high unemployment rate we are presently facing in Nigeria can be drastically reduced with relatively stable supply of electricity.
Many people will find their employment bearing in what is usually called the blue collar job sector of the economy, which is capable of accommodating millions of employable Nigerians. Name it; Welding workshops, Barbing saloons, Hair dressing saloons, Internet Café, Fashion designers, Cold room operators, etc., will all have stable jobs and move away from riding bikes, popularly referred to as Okada, with grave implications to their health, if they have access to stable electricity to run their businesses seamlessly.
Also, and importantly too, manufacturing will once again boom in Nigeria as factories will be able to run their machines at cheaper electricity rates compared to the exorbitant cost of running them presently on diesel generators, if the issue of electricity is fixed. This means that there will be a reduction in the cost of production.
A reduction in the cost of production will drive the prices of produced goods down, thus, making them affordable to the average Nigerian.
Further benefits of fixing the electricity issue in Nigeria is that, as reduction in production costs drives down prices, our products will be able to compete for export, especially, in our immediate African market.
This can, indeed, be the beginning of Nigeria earning serious foreign exchange from exports. Exports earnings can improve the strength of the Naira against stronger currencies like the Dollar and save us from the present foreign exchange imbroglio we find ourselves. Nigerians can then start to breathe a sigh of relieve.
One of the reasons adduced for the increase in electricity tariff is that the Disco’s need to gather more funds to invest in old equipment. One is tempted to ask; what did the Disco’s thought they were buying into when they were bidding for the aspect of PHCN which they bought?
Did they inspect the equipment they were buying at all? Did they price down the old equipment they were buying into when they bought, knowing that they have to invest in better equipment? Why should it now be the electricity consumers that should indirectly be funding the Fixed Asset side of the Balance Sheet of the Disco’s by financing their equipment purchase through the increase in tariffs? All these questions are begging for answers.
The truth is that no nation can be truly economically viable if its electricity sector is in the kind of crisis that ours is in Nigeria. There is the need to really deregulate the electricity sector in Nigeria instead of removing it from the government’s bureaucratic shackles and placing it on the laps of investors with oligarchic tendencies.
The issue of alternative sources of electricity should also not be discountenanced in seeking to solve the electricity crisis in Nigeria. Technology has provided various other options, such as wind, solar and many more. The government should look at each community and see how best they can be helped to benefit from these alternative sources of electricity, thus, by-passing the Discos.
We expect to see positive changes in the direction of improving the supply of electricity with the supply of prepaid meters to every consumer of electricity in the nearest future, otherwise, our Tech ecosystem and other businesses will keep crawling.