Nigeria: Etiam/Samsung – Empowering Nigerian Youths Through ICT Vocational Education to Reduce Unemployment, Insecurity

Human capital development of youths that comprise 60 percent of the over 200 million Nigerian population through ICT vocational training has been identified as one of the strategies to curb unemployment and insecurity in the country. The Chairman of Etiam Innovation Systems, Mr. Mark-Anthony Nduka-Eze, explained the benefits to Chris Asika

Etiam is a technology solutions company engaged in education technology development with governments in the public sector, as well as with corporate entities delivering solutions such as engineering academies to train youths in all aspects of vocational training, ICT learning resource centers to train the trainers such as teachers, and mobile learning tablet programmes to schools and tertiary institutions.

The company recognises unemployment as a major challenge to the stability of life in Africa, particularly among the growing youth population, resulting in youth restiveness, cultism, armed robbery, kidnapping and migration, among several other vices. The desire to reduce unemployment gave birth to Etiam Innovation Systems.

“We are a diversified technology and service firm involved in technology advisory of turnkey projects using technology to promote education and agriculture. Etiam has partnered with Samsung to promote smart education and has built over nine ICT training centers in Nigeria. “These vocational ICT skills training will accelerate youth development initiatives and make Nigerian workforce globally competitive. The end-to-end programmes will be delivered via ICT academies set up in the local communities and their institutions to boost entrepreneurship education and reduce unemployment, thereby creating wealth among the teeming youth population,” the Chairman of Etiam Innovation Systems, Mr. Mark-Anthony Nduka-Eze said.

Nduka-Eze began his career as an International immigration attorney with the International Rescue Committee in San Jose, California. As a law graduate of the University of London, England. He studied International Relations at the University of Warwick, England and completed a programme in Immigration Law at the Golden Gate Law School in San Francisco, California. He was also a research assistant at the Immigrant Legal and Resource Centre in San Francisco, California and a member of the New York Bar and an executive member of the Africa Bar Association. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, as well as a member of the Immigration Lawyers Practitioner’s Association of England. He has also headed several top positions as a business and legal advisor in the telecommunications industry in Nigeria and beyond.

He is on the board of several companies and is currently the CEO of Etiam Innovation Systems, a Samsung and Huawei Technologies partner promoting smart education projects in several states in Nigeria.

The nine ICT centers built by Etiam were donated to the host states, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Ogun, Delta, Edo, Imo, Akwa Ibom and Cross River State governments. Several youths have also been trained on ICT vocational skills thereby boosting youth employment in Nigeria. As the promoter of the Samsung smart mobile learning project, Nd was a technical adviser to the BRACED Commission, an agency set up by the governors of the south-south states of Nigeria, aimed at harmonizing and coordinating the oil rich states’ policies and the promotion of economic cooperation and integration. He is also the Chairman of Trade, Investment and Business Immigration of the African Bar Association and is currently working with the African Union and other international development agencies to develop and promote the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, with emphasis on business immigration to promote the integration of trade in goods, services and the free movement of people across the continent of Africa.

“In Silicon Valley, the city of one million people with over 1 trillion dollar ICT economy in the late 90s in the USA, I was working with an ICT company as an immigration lawyer and my job was to ensure that the ICT software and hardware engineers that we were bringing to the USA are able to acquire the relevant immigration status because the country was not producing sufficient software and hardware engineers and technology is driving the economy globally. As at that time India was producing more than 600,000 software/hardware engineers more than the whole world combined.

“My company had a branch office and I played a central role of going over there to relate with the ones that can adapt with the western world because India was able to develop their economy and reduce poverty by setting up colleges of technology on almost every street, train young people at government’s expense, meanwhile these young people in India usually earn over 20,000 dollars a year in India, but when they come to the USA, they earn between 100 and 150,000 dollars a year as at that time.”

Nduka-Eze noted that as a result of this, India was able to lift a lot of people out of poverty through job creation and that in turn created wealth for the Indian government because the young people end up repatriating money back because their lifestyle salary has greatly improved. “This brought about the boom of the Indian economy. The restrictions of the number of migrants to the USA also brought about under-employment in the USA government who has jobs but do not have enough people who have enough skills to man these jobs.”

He said because of this, American ICT companies like Microsoft, CISCO, IBM, HP and all the other big ICT companies decided to build branches (campuses) in India so that instead of struggling with immigration, they will ensure that half of the people that they recruit stay back in India but they are earning about $70,000.

“The US companies were saving money but at the same time, the Indian economy was booming.

“This was clearly not only to create employment to the youths and vibrant generation in India but also to boost the Indian economy and Nigeria is very similar in terms of demography to India because we have a growing youthful population, we have about 60 percent which is over 60 percent of Nigeria’s population. So it is not oil that is going to solve the problem of Nigeria, it is human capital development, however, the oil proceeds can be applied to set up colleges of technology everywhere, to train people in all aspects of modern technology. “This will reduce youth flight to the western world which is creating a lot of social problems in Nigeria, this is what informed my decision to return to Nigeria to focus on how this Indian experience can be duplicated in Nigeria among the youth population and I approached Samsung, I traveled to the headquarters and presented my proposal that Nigeria has a huge population and what they are doing is selling high-end products to less than 5 percent of the Nigerian population and they are spending over 30 billion dollars on Research and Development (R&D) but the Chinese are the ones benefitting from their hard work by producing cheap version technology and selling across Nigeria.

“So it is very important that what happened in South Korea in terms of using technology to capture the children young in primary and secondary schools are also duplicated in Nigeria because when they do that, they will capture the Nigerian population young and Samsung technology will become acceptable in Nigeria and that what I would like is for them to partner with me in using their technology to drive learning education and skills acquisition,” Nduka-Eze said.

According to him, there are three approaches: Digital virtual education, which entails the provision of tablets embedded with educational contents in primary and secondary schools; setting up ICT teacher training centers to train the trainers. “Currently we have set up centers across Nigeria, five of them in the south-south, one in Abeokuta, Ogun State, one in Imo State, one in Abuja. Once you capture the children it becomes very important that you encourage the teachers to adopt technology in their teaching methods.”

The other approach is the Samsung ICT Academy, which is set up to train youths in all aspects of Samsung products and engineering. “Samsung as you know has different products which include TV, refrigerator, kitchen products, tablets, computers, and the youths are trained to acquire the skills to repair these equipment. The training takes about a year and they end up having job offers all over West Africa even while still undergoing training,” he added.

Nduka-Eze has worked in collaboration with the state governors which serves as a pilot/roll out to attract international funding agencies like the World Bank. “We primarily rolled out the BRACED Commission which stands for Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta States. They represent the south-south states. The idea was to roll out to the south-south and continue to expand that is why we have one in Abuja but was slowed by the invasion of the COVID-19 pandemic which would have enabled the project to go far. The project started in 2015 Samsung and Etiam were committed to rolling out these projects all over the country. They would have solved the problem of the children having to stay at home during the pandemic with e-learning platforms but did not get adequate support from relevant government agencies they partnered with.”

He said learning using technology is a 24- hour thing, it should not be limited to physical classrooms. He added that Nigeria has over 15 million children out of school, as well as displaced children who can learn, were ever they are at any time, this can only be done by using online learning.

“We have in the past also rolled out a smart education mobile online education in Kaduna for secondary schools and NNPC. Those were the funding partnership with mobile 10,000 education tabs to secondary schools in Kaduna which also attracted funds for expansion from the World Bank in 2017. Government should not look at their limited financial capacities, the key is a global partnership (just like we partnered with Samsung) to provide the credibility for finding agencies to provide the funding to expand the rollout projects. “The south-south government after a period of time have reconvened seeing the importance of smart education in the secondary school because of the COVID experience and have decided to continue the project through the BRACED Commission as originally agreed and recalled Etiam my company as the implementation partner and we are now at various level of discussion and arrangement to get the latest technology now they continue the rollout.

“I am using this medium to appeal to all the internal and interactively funding agencies such as NNPC, local content board, the NDDC and all other agencies that have a mandate to promote education and learning, as well as training of vocational ICT skills like coding, programming, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, data science, web development, etc, to focus on youths to acquire the most sought after ICT vocational skills. You can be in Nigeria yet employed in America once you have these skills. The bottom line is while we are here fighting over dividing resources the value and wealth creation is human capital development and not oil. Oil is something that within 30 years it is gone, but these youths are trained in all aspects of technology they will be employed and this will curb the challenges of insecurity which is caused by unemployment,” he said.

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