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As part of the current administration of President Bola Tinubu’s commitment towards creating meaningful opportunities for Nigerian youths, the Director General Of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa CCIE has called on the government of Japan to leverage the youthful population through strategic talent partnership that will nurture and build a workforce that can be exported.

The DG made the call at the Ihatch startup incubation programme 2nd cohort demo day and 3rd cohort opening ceremony organised by the subsidiary of the agency, Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI), in partnership with Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) in Abuja.

Inuwa noted that the ihatch 5-month free intensive incubation programme executed by the ONDI and hosted within the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) is designed to help Nigerian tech entrepreneurs refine their business ideas through a series of coaching, lectures, and booth camps to develop scalable and adaptable business models that will focus on youth, innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

He added that the incubation programme will be held simultaneously in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Gombe, and Kano and JICA agreed to extend the Fourth Cohort across the 36 States and the FCT. This is to enable wider reach and to stimulate the startup ecosystems across the States.

The DG stated that not fewer than 1,218 applications were received for the Second Cohort and the number was pruned down to 8 startups, comprising 16 persons, a Founder and Co-Founder for each startup, after undergoing levels of rigorous selection process conducted by a panel of judges, comprising experts in diverse areas of technology and innovative entrepreneurship.

He explained that the selection process assessed the startups’ ideas based on the criteria of profitability, scalability, social impact, idea technique, competitive advantage, experience, and a clearly defined future roadmap.

Inuwa further revealed that a total of 11,183 applications were received from across the 6 geopolitical zones for the Third Cohort. This culminated in the selection of the top 8 startups, comprising 16 founders in total that will participate in the Third Cohort that was launched.

He added that 16 startups that participated in the first and second cohorts of the iHatch incubation programme have moved on to achieve remarkable success in the areas of job creation, funding, participation in events, and valuable partnerships which have created a combined total of 179 direct jobs in the span of agriculture, health, education, and e-commerce sectors.

The DG further asserted that apart from the total grant of US$45,000 (US$15,000 each) for Proof of Concept (POC) to the top 3 startups in the first cohort, some of the startups have raised some funding through other sources. Xolani Health (a health tech startup from the first cohort) secured a grant worth US$155,000, BetaLife (a health tech startup from the first cohort) secured an angel investment of US$60,000, Gifty (an e-commerce startup from the second cohort) got a grant of USD$8,000 while two other startups from the first and second cohorts respectively, raised a combined total grant of US$6,000.

Inuwa affirmed the agency’s commitment to working with relevant stakeholders and partners towards the successful implementation of the Nigeria Startup Act (NSA) which will accelerate innovation and provide much-needed jobs for our teeming youths. Leaving nothing to chance in our resolve to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit in our youth to catalyze the Nigerian digital economy to the next level.

The Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Doris Nkiruka Uzoka-Anite, represented by National Coordinator, National Talent Export Programme, Dr Femi Adeluyi, applauded NITDA for the various initiatives and programs put in place for the advancement of the tech ecosystem in the country.

Anite noted that the NITDA DG at the Digital Nigeria International Conference 2023 edition harped on the need for Nigeria to become the talent destination of the world where countries will come to seek a workforce that will work with them towards achieving their goals and objectives.

She added that “technology is a pivotal tool in all aspects of life which cannot be overemphasized and the green transition scoreboard global total has reached about $7.13 trillion for export and about $6.6 trillion for importation, the important aspect is that 54% of these activities is digitally edible and prepares people to be effective and efficient in the different sector of the economy is laudable”.

The Minister also appreciated JICA for its relentless efforts toward the advancement of the tech ecosystem in the area of automobile, development, training, scholarships, interventions and a lot more which has impacted the citizens directly or indirectly.

The Ambassador of Japan to Nigeria, Matsunaga Kazuyoshi, represented by Yuzurio Susumu Chief of Nigeria Office in his remarks stated that Nigeria is the most popular country in Africa and the heart hub of entrepreneurship activities aimed towards the advancement of the country.

He added, “With all the challenges faced by insecurity, and limited infrastructures in the country, Nigerian startups are demonstrating remarkable creativity and resilience in developing solutions that other critical social issues in areas such as education, transportation, healthcare and finance”.

He added that the present administration has identified the transformation potential of startups and digitization making it a key factor in diversifying the Nigerian economy from its dependence on oil.

The Ambassador pointed out that startups are seen as a catalyst for business transformation,  bringing fresh ideas,  innovative technologies and new employment opportunities. Japan has the longest history of technological innovation and entrepreneurship has a significant role in supporting the Nigerian system.

Among those who attended were representatives from both the private and public and the top three (3) startups emerged with cash prices to Fundus AI 1st position at $15,000.00, Reno 2nd position at $12,000.00 and Ilim Tutors 3rd position at $10,000.00 respectively.

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