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The Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa CCIE said that digital economy has created a pathway for emerging technologies, providing opportunities for talented youths in Africa to emerge as global leaders, through harnessing their potentials.

Inuwa said this at the Leaders Without Borders Annual Business Summit and International Honors 2023 in London with the theme: “Business Beyond Borders, Global Partnerships and Sustainable Investments” which is a global event that brings together business leaders, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders from around the world to promote collaboration and innovation in the business work.

The DG recalled that NITDA as a government agency established in 2001 to help Nigerians in the use of Information Technology (IT), which at that time, less than five hundred thousand Nigerians had access to computer and was contributing less than 0.05% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the nation. Today more than one hundred and twenty million Nigerians have access to the internet not just computer. Information and Communications Technology (ICT), is contributing to more than 18.5% to the GDP.

He added that, “The NITDA Act was passed into law 2007 and by 2012 we had the National ICT policy and in 2019 we had the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) which is a major shift in the Agency’s policies. Previous policies are about the use of information Technology while the later digital economy is about the use of ICT in line with the economic activities, simply meaning that technology is not the end but a means to an end”.

“The Agency’s mandates fall around developing the national digital economy ecosystem that includes; developmental regulation on how it can level the playing field for you to start and grow business, intervene in the policies and infrastructures for unserved and underserved communities, and lastly, helping the youth with seed funding to develop a proof of concept and prototype of the ideas”.

“NITDA embarked on the development of many regulatory frameworks for the Information Technology development in government establishments. The projects are to give rise to digital skills in educational institutions and rural areas and cities, so as to develop human capital and provide universal access to digital services with the aim of creating a knowledge- based economy,” he said.

The DG stated that in addition to making an effort in IT development as well as enhancing the capacity of the citizenry, hundreds of IT Hubs, IT Parks, and community ICT centers were established, furnished and equipped with world class facilities across the states of the federation. The agency through its strategic relations with techpreneurs, supported start-ups, IT ecosystem builders through Nigeria ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Vision (NIIEV) which has created employment for Nigerian youths.

To ensure Nigeria’s pool of talents were not left behind, the Agency established the National Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotic (NCAIR), to drive and support research, development, and adoption of emerging technologies in the country.

Inuwa further revealed that, “Nigeria is thriving and has the most vibrant tech ecosystem in Africa, the fintech company which is almost twice bigger than the biggest bank in Nigeria. The biggest bank in Nigeria is about 1.6 billion USD in valuation, while Flutter wave is almost 3.6 billion USD. While looking into e-commerce, e-health, mobility and logistics, e-recruitment, Agric-tech, prop-tech, and smart homes which is booming in Nigeria and Africa in general”.

“In the ecosystem we have five critical stakeholders to be considered; the institution: where the universities produce the human capital which is the most valuable resources in Africa, with the youngest population with more than 70% comprises of youths under the ages of 30; the Government: which is aimed at building a conducive environment for businesses to thrive through laws, provide legal frameworks, policies, and regulations.

“The private organisations: to aid employ the human capital produced and also purchase of the goods and services rendered. The risk capital: which is a major problem in Africa. If you look at most of the top jobs in Nigeria and Africa in general, they get funding from abroad, mostly from the US and Europe. While in Nigeria we don’t have such to invest to boost the economy. And lastly the entrepreneurs: we need them also on board to understand what people want so that they can start and grow their businesses.

“The Nigeria tech ecosystem has attracted about 4.4billion USD investment between the year 2015, 2019 and 2020 respectively, and ICT contributing to about 18.5% to the nation’s GDP, and NITDA also supported about 753 start-ups in different ways through trainings, seed funding and grants”.

“Recently, we took some start-ups to Riyadh for competition, which two of them emerged as global winners and won 150,000 USD each. Nigeria is thriving and has a vibrant tech ecosystem in Africa and almost 30% to all Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Africa ends in Nigeria,” the DG said.

Inuwa further said that “NITDA has been doing a lot in the area of digital literacy where we want to use our local languages to enable every Nigerian to be able to use digital devices and consume digital services, we have trained over 3.3 million Nigerians on digital literacy to boost the economy.

“Under the IT project clearance, it has saved the country money from duplication of projects by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) which from 2019 to date , the agency through the project has saved the country over 305 billion naira from IT project implementation in MDAs towards improving effectiveness and efficiency in executing government IT projects across the country,” the DG said.

Highlight of the event was the presentation of award to the DG in recognition of his outstanding leadership and contributions to the development of the Nigerian Information Technology sector in Nigeria geared towards growth and development.

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