By Rafiq Raji, PhD
According to PwC, the Nigerian gaming industry, which is largely domiciled in Lagos, would earn about $87 million in revenue by 2021 if its 16 percent average annual growth prediction is vindicated. Still, Lagos’ gaming industry pales in comparison to that of Kenya’s Nairobi. Considering Nigeria is four times as populous, the relatively smaller gaming market in the country points to opportunities for interested investors. How difficult would it be to create a model that provides access to the country’s teeming youths to have fun via games and also earn income? A virtuous loop also means more would be interested in creating new games themselves. For an industry earning revenue of about $116 billion globally, there is huge potential for the Nigeria gaming industry to take a bigger slice of the pie. And the focus does not need to be on foreign markets. There is an ample market opportunity within the country itself and clearly in other African countries as well; especially for mobile phone game apps since more people own a smartphone or have access to one than they do a computer. Considering games via mobilie phone apps are expected to rival those based on consoles or played via a computer, this is probably just as well.
Some other players are trying to succeed in more complex areas. Take the punishing traffic of Lagos; artificial intelligence could be used to make it better. That is the ideal case, of course. In reality, traffic lights in the city are not even reliable. That is, if they work. When they work. To power some traffic and street lights, those in critical areas of the city especially, the state government relies on solar power generating systems. Still, even if the current traffic management system in Lagos works fine, it could hardly do the job well without some human intervention. Besides, artificial intelligence would be useful to solve the traffic problem, say, only if there already existed a well-functioning infrastructure. Examples of initiatives in Lagos traffic management using artificial intelligence are mostly focused on providing information and directions to reduce the probability of getting stuck on the road. An example is Lara.ng by RP Technologies, which relies on artificial intelligence to provide directions and fare quotes for public transportation in Lagos. But since artificial intelligence is the “ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings”, the user experience of Lara.ng does not meet the standard; albeit it is not yet fully developed. But it definitely shows how tech stakeholders in Lagos and Nigeria at large are thinking about how to use more complex but useful technologies to solve common problems in the city.
In general, though, artificial intelligence is yet to take off. In the words of Emeka Okoye, chief executive of Cymantiks, “we don’t do AI in Nigeria. For now, what we have are copycats of the Artificial Intelligence frameworks adopted by the foreign-based platforms.” A related field is the Internet of Things (IoT) defined as “a network of physical “things” embedded with sensors and connected to the Internet.” “With IoT technology, devices are able to communicate and share data between one another without manual intervention.” The relationship between artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things is akin to that between the human brain and the body respectively. Since both are connected, companies involved in the internet of things would also fall under the umbrella of artificial intelligence. Vacker Nigeria, an engineering solutions provider, avails its clients in the retail and manufacturing sectors with tools to monitor and manage their supply chains using the internet of things, for instance. Cloud services is another potential growth area. Although a lot of Nigeria firms still prefer to have their own network infrastructure, the need for scale as they expand makes cloud services attractive. Cloud service providers like MainOne and the Rack Centre, host the networks of their clients in their own infrastructure, which they share with other subscribers to their service. Trust remains a constraint, however.
The author, Dr Rafiq Raji, is an adjunct researcher of the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies, a trilateral platform for government, business and academia to promote knowledge and expertise on Africa, established by Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Business Federation. This article was specifically written for the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies
Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/smart-lagos-5-status-prospects-opportunities/