The Chairman of Zinox Group, Chief Leo Stan Ekeh, has charged the Federal Government to seriously consider extending exceptional tax concessions to the technology sector as a means of encouraging the huge undoubted youthful potential in the sector to create a new economy.
Ekeh, who made this plea at the Silverbird Man of the Year Awards held in Lagos at the weekend, noted that the tech sector that is driving leading economies in the world, is struggling seriously in Nigeria. And in spite of the great and sincere efforts of the present administration, the Nigerian economy is also fatigued as a result of its predominantly analogue nature. In his opinion, millions of Nigerian youths nurse big dreams and have the capacity to thrive in a new and futuristic economy that is technology-driven, but urgently need government support in terms of structured capital and tax concession during their incubation period.
Ekeh, who received the Extraordinary Business Achievement Award at the event, disclosed that globally, technology has become the driving force behind the fortunes of many nations. According to him, the 10 richest men in the world and the biggest companies in the world today can all be found in the technology sector – a reality that shows how technology remains the only profession that can help Nigeria bridge the gap between it and other advanced countries in the world.
“Technology is the only profession in the world today that can make the son of the poorest man the richest man in the world. Though still struggling, I am a practical testimony of the possibilities in the sector, having led several technology teams that deployed in Iraq, Libya, Guinea Bissau, to mention but a few. However, I am still Nigeria-based. It is not just its lifestyle nature but technology is the only profession in world today in which you can experience miracle wealth. Our kids have read, seen and worked in tech companies or tech-driven companies in the world that became multi-billion dollar companies within five years and they are smarter than many of these foreign entrepreneurs but their only sin is that they are Nigerians and living in Nigeria.
“I have experienced this frustration for over 30 years and it is too late for me to complain. These kids are 21st Century youths and the majorities of them are not interested in agriculture and will never be forced to adopt it because of its unstructured nature. Youths today are faith-driven and can anticipate the future better than their parents and leaders. My research shows that over 85% of them would rather prefer to make money only from tech-driven platforms which certifies them as global citizens or do nothing.”
Continuing, Ekeh disclosed that, “If the Federal Government of Nigeria can invest 20% of what she has invested in the Agricultural sector in the Tech sector, over 75% of present unemployed youths would become employed or self-employed in a profession that has a future. I am not against investment in the Agricultural sector, but it is a sector of extreme passion today due to its present analogue nature. Our leaders should ask their children who trained in quality institutions if any of them would want to do farming, for example. I’m sure the answer you will get is 100% NO. So, who do you expect his child to go into farming? Farming is good, but it is a profession of passion. You can’t force a young man or woman to farm,” he declared.
While commending the government and its agencies, especially the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for improving the tax revenue base of the country, Ekeh pleaded with the Federal Government to encourage a new and prosperous economy by allowing entrepreneurs in the ICT sector a decent tax-free period of at least ten years – an incentive that will see Nigeria prosper immensely in the technology front.
“If this is granted, this country will experience, within the next five years, an army of tech billionaires whose one year tax payments shall significantly be more than our present ten years’ collections. We must see the bigger picture and prepare for tomorrow instead of frustrating people at incubation period. IT companies in today’s Nigeria are the poorest corporates and slowly disappearing – a situation which I find very unfortunate. Tech kids are restless and need time to develop, experiment and deliver products into the market successfully. Most times you succeed with one out of the thirty you invested money and time in. It takes time to stabilize in a country that is not digitally-driven. I am in a better position to tell this story because I have been in same sector for over 30 years. The sector is full of hype because it is a youth-dominated profession and when the FIRS personnel read, they come to the conclusion that you are a multi-billionaire and then go after your company.
“I plead with the Federal Government to grant tax concessions to the technology sector. Tech guys have the potential to create sustainable wealth and transform this country for good. I challenge the people in government, including the few present here such as the Deputy Senate President, distinguished senators and several Governors.”
Ekeh, who heaped praises on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele and his team for protecting the economy from failure during the recent economic recession, also called on him to intervene in the IT sector more than he has done in the Agricultural sector by extending support to millions of young Nigerians yearning for an opportunity to transform the fortunes of the country.
Ekeh affirmed that these young men and women have globally certified education and need the right environment to exhibit their capacity, noting that if the country cannot provide it, the situation will create unfortunate ones who would resort to scientific robbery, kidnapping and many other vices. He also warned that the nation may not experience all-inclusive peace until we provide for these brilliant kids.
He rounded off by encouraging the younger generation to remain focused in a brighter future.
“Having done this for the past 35 years as a disruptive digital entrepreneur in Africa, I can only encourage the younger ones here. When I look at the global figures and the stock market, the biggest enterprises in the world are tech companies. It tells me there is a future for you, so do not be discouraged,” he concluded.
Arguably Africa’s biggest technology entrepreneur, Ekeh has built the Zinox Group into a foremost integrated ICT conglomerate with a 360-degree spectrum orientation and advanced competencies in manufacturing, software development, distribution, core and enterprise ICT solutions, retail and after-sales support, among others. His recent acquisition of e-commerce giants, Konga – a development that is widely expected to raise the profile of e-commerce in the country – has further gone a long way to show the far-reaching ambitions of Ekeh who launched BuyRight Africa, Nigeria’s first e-commerce company about 10 years ago.
In attendance at the event was a host of dignitaries from the public and private sectors including former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, several serving Governors including Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose; Rivers’ State Governor, Nyesom Wike; Governor of Kebbi state, Abubakar Bagudu and the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson. Also present was the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, Senators Dino Melaye and Ademola Adeleke as well as Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila. Others include Chief Abba Folawiyo, Senator Daisy Danjuma, Lady Maiden Ibru and Stella Chinyelu Okoli, among others.