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The Only Fish In The Sea: A Story of Tech Developers and Development in Nigeria

A few nights ago, myself and a couple of friends got together to discuss life and prospects in dear old Nigeria. As we discussed, the gist turned towards an intersection of two of my favorite things - politics and technology(Two very seemingly disjoint hobbies, but that's a story for another day). We discussed Nigeria's "new" government and it's policies concerning developing technology in the country. One of my friends mentioned the Ministry of Science and Technology's plan to produce pencils by 2018 and then proceeded to discuss at length the merits of the endeavor and why we should all be supporting it. This guy's talk just baffled me. I was neither against the production of easily sellable products nor was I against the creation of employment for over  400,000 of my fellow Nigerians. What got me confused were some of the honourable minister, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu's comments on the matter:
Yes, I have heard questions on why pencils. We chose pencils to symbolize the problems that we have and our commitment to local production...

I was also upset when my friend talked about how this was a very good start and was at least better than nothing and that "they" were "trying".
I listed all the things that "ordinary" me could do all by my lonesome and asked the guy why the "whole" Federal Government couldn't do something more worthwhile.

That prompted another round of debate. This time about whether or not there were Nigerian scientists/engineers/business people who were actually doing anything worthwhile.
Indignant, I tried my utmost best to convince my friends of the numerous  "head bursting" projects being spear headed by regular Nigerian guys. However I came up short. Partly due to my friend's mule headedness and partly because I did not have enough ammunition on the matter. And so the matter ended.

At the time, I actually agreed with him on there not being any worthwhile products of Nigerian origin but over the next few days I got quite surprised as I discovered one after another startup of Nigerian origin that actually made a lot of sense if not profit.
Prior to this, my friends and I had sat on our hunches thinking we were the only people with good ideas or skills. But we were utterly and completely wrong because of our limited interaction with others who were also working hard.

So, while this little episode actually taught me a lot about so called technocratic bureaucrats and arguing with my friends, the biggest lesson I learned was one that I think all young people like me should learn. It's actually quite basic: "You're not the only fish in the sea".
My conclusion? While the government's attempt to kick-start local content in the Tech Industry with pencils is [hardly] laudable, I believe that we'd be better served if the government [also] created platforms for interaction between the numerous practitioners of various technologies in the country. Such sessions have the potential to kick start our local technology development and in a much shorter timespan than these pencils that will take two years to prepare for.

If nothing else, the momentum generated from other developers realizing that they're not alone is by itself sufficient to achieve great things if channeled properly. I know how many previously abandoned projects I revisited after discovering that there were a lot of other good guys out there.

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