NITDA and SMEDAN Forge Partnership: Joint Programs and Database Initiatives for SMEs

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Kashifu Inuwa, the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), emphasized the pivotal role of Nigeria’s approximately 40 million small businesses, which contribute to 50 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provide employment to 70 million individuals. In line with this recognition, Inuwa announced the intention of NITDA to collaborate with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).

During a courtesy visit by SMEDAN’s Director General, Charles Odii, to NITDA’s corporate headquarters in Abuja, Inuwa highlighted the shared objectives of both agencies. They aim to jointly develop programs focusing on infrastructure, digital literacy, and other areas to establish a comprehensive database. This database will offer insights into the needs of small businesses, enabling targeted interventions.

The purpose of Odii’s visit was to forge partnerships for infrastructural and human capital development tailored to SMEs in Nigeria. Additionally, he sought to formalize the collaboration through a memorandum of understanding (MoU), inviting DG NITDA to SMEDAN for further deliberations.

Inuwa emphasized the alignment between NITDA’s Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2.0) and opportunities for collaboration with SMEDAN. Notably, the focus on fostering digital literacy and talent cultivation resonates with both agencies. Inuwa highlighted the importance of facilitating digital literacy among SMEs to boost productivity, which aligns with the objectives of the National Digital Literacy Framework (NDLF).

“We all know that with digital literacy a market woman can sell her goods without moving from one place to another, as someone can use digital platforms to order for goods and have them delivered to them.”

The Director General of NITDA highlighted the timeliness and significance of the collaboration, particularly in bolstering policy implementation and legal frameworks such as the Nigerian Startup Act. He underscored the pivotal role of SMEs, comprising around 90 percent of the nation’s workforce and accounting for over 90 percent of businesses. In expressing NITDA’s eagerness to collaborate, he emphasized the goal of enabling SMEs to leverage the incentives outlined in the Startup Act, especially those utilizing innovation to drive productivity or innovation-focused enterprises.

Inuwa referenced the Information Service Furnishing (ISF) to reveal that Nigeria hosts over 100 IT hubs, with less than half of them currently operational. He pointed out the opportunity for both agencies to leverage these IT hubs as crucial infrastructure in underserved and unserved areas. This initiative aligns with one of the pillars outlined in the SRAP 2.0, which aims to promote inclusive access to digital infrastructure and services.

“We can come together and decide a benchmark on what an IT hub should look like so that it can properly serve the people.”

In addressing the imperative of enhancing cybersecurity and fostering digital trust, he stressed the need to develop cybersecurity solutions tailored to SMEs. These solutions should aim to promote digital trust by facilitating access to affordable and locally developed cybersecurity services.

“We need to look at how we can come up with cybersecurity solutions for SMEs that will promote digital trust by having SMEs that provide affordable and indigenous cybersecurity services,” he said.

Furthermore, he emphasized another pillar of focus, which centers on nurturing an innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem. He underscored the importance of devising strategies to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, thereby cultivating a vibrant ecosystem conducive to driving economic growth.

Charles Odii, the Director General of SMEDAN, highlighted the agency’s ongoing digital literacy initiatives during his remarks. He expressed the agency’s intent to have its curriculum evaluated by NITDA to ensure alignment with global standards and compliance with the National Digital Literacy Framework (NDLF).

Regarding the Startup Act, Odii acknowledged NITDA’s role as the secretariat for the initiative. He expressed interest in collaborating to raise awareness among SMEs, particularly startups, about the opportunities provided by the Startup Act. Additionally, he proposed assisting NITDA in expanding its database by encouraging SMEs, especially startups, to register and participate in relevant programs.

“We understand that NITDA is the secretariat for the Startup Act, and we want to work with you in sensitising them (SMEs), especially those of them who are startups to take advantage of this and also help to add to your database for registration,” he stated.

 “We have a robust SME database that we are building, and we would like to partner with you to make sure that the framework for this database is in line with what you have for data entrepreneurs, he said.

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