- No need to worry – Presidency
By Muideen Olaniyi & Zakariyya Adaramola
It’s now over one month since both chambers of the National Assembly passed the Nigerian Startup Bill expected to, not only boost businesses and bring some ease in business startups in the country, but also deepen the growth of the tech ecosystem and the country’s economic development.
The delay in the much anticipated presidential assent is, therefore, already generating concerns among key stakeholders who believe that an executive bill coming from President Muhammadu Buhari should have enjoyed prompt attention going by what it will contribute to the nation’s economic development.
The bill is not only to provide a legal and institutional framework for the development of startups in Nigeria, but also guarantee an enabling environment for the establishment, development and operation of startups in the country. It is also meant to provide for the development and growth of technology-related talent, and position Nigeria’s startup ecosystem, as the leading digital technology centre in Africa, having excellent innovators with cutting edge skills and exportable capacity.
In view of the objectives highlighted above, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) experts have described the delayed presidential signature as “worrisome” after the legislature had carried out its constitutional responsibility of passing the document.
Speaking with Daily Trust, the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of Majadtek Nigeria Limited, Muizz Oyewole, said it was worrisome that the president was yet to assent to the bill.
“Considering the great support given by the presidency and all participating ministries/agencies towards the drafting and presentation of the startup bill to the National Assembly, a first-of-its-kind bill that followed a bottom-up and widely engaging approach, it becomes worrisome why the president did not assent in the shortest time possible.”
However, he said since he was not privileged to see the final version passed by the National Assembly, the president might have a reason for delaying the assent.
“But I believe the presidency understands the plight of the Nigerian startup ecosystem and will be willing to resolve whatever might have prevented the assent in the interest of the Nigerian youth and economy at large.”
He added that there is also concern over the number of states yet to make efforts towards domesticating the NSB.
“States that are already doing, this like Lagos, Zamfara among others, are highly appreciated. But the number is very low. I will suggest that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) should come up with state level committees under respective state governor’s offices to complement the effort of the Presidency and other stakeholders towards localization followed by implementation after finally getting signed,” Oyewole said.
He said the bill, if assented to, it would go a long way in opening up more opportunities. “The potential in here is for Nigeria to become the incubation ground for the next decade of global Tech CEOs. The potential is so huge that our human resource capital can be grown to contribute to our national GDP beyond 10 times what oil currently generates and increase PPI due to more distributed wealth among the populace. It will indeed have ripple effect on all other aspects of the economy.”
Oyewole, who has four years’ experience as a global mentor in the Google Africa Developers Scholarship programme, having trained and mentored thousands of Nigerian youths in various capacities in Software Engineering, Cloud Computing and Cybersecurity among others, added that what a Nigerian youth needed was empowerment to realise his/her potential.
He said: “Do you realise the upsurge in the quest for Nigerian tech talents at global scale, just like Nigerian tech healthcare talents are being sourced for. Rather than this becoming a ‘brain drain’ challenge, we can actually convert this into opportunities of attracting greater diaspora remittance and bridging the ‘unemployment gap’ immensely. What we need to do is to create a ‘spiral effect’ that harvests opportunities therefrom. The startup bill addresses some aspects of this impressively but again the focus should be on ‘strategic implementation.”
Similarly, the CEO of Fantech Limited, Engr Liadi Mikhail, said the president was not helping the economy by delaying assent to the bill.
Mikhail said many investors would lose hope in the country with the president’s attitude.
No need to worry – Presidency
However, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives), Nasiru Baballe Ila, said there was no need worry over the development.
He said President Buhari was equally eager to ensure that the bill became law.
He attributed the delay in transmitting the bill to Mr President to the recess of the federal lawmakers.
He said: “It was passed on the last day the House was to go on recess. The Senate had already done their own. Because of that, it has not been transmitted up till now. It is not that Mr President doesn’t want to sign it. No.
“It has not been transmitted. In fact, he is more anxious than you, than anybody else.
“Personally, I know how it was pushed for it to be passed. But unfortunately, because the House went on break, they suspended everything until they came back. That is what happened.”
It would be recalled that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the Nigeria Startup Bill which replaced the National Digital Innovation Entrepreneurship and Startup Policy on December 15, 2021.
While briefing, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, said the bill would establish the National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship to be chaired by the president and supported by the vice president as well as relevant ministers and government parastatals.
Pantami described the approval as exciting news to innovators all over the country, particularly those working within the tech industry.
He said the startup bill was an outcome of a very long process between the Office of the Chief Of Staff to the President and the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
The minister said stakeholders, especially young innovators, were engaged and their observations were accommodated in the bill.
He said this bill was crafted to provide the enabling environment for successful startups.
The minister, who said the bill provides operational structure for the council in its relationship with relevant institutions, added that it further addresses the startup labeling process, certificate issuance and spells out procedures to get government grant.
He said the bill also makes provision for Startup Investment Safe Fund, a dedicated fund to be provided by the federal government for young innovators all over the country to begin their own companies.
“In addition, there are also tax and fiscal incentives where government will provide tax holidays; where government will support our startups to even liaise with international or multi-tech giants globally. So, government will provide tax holidays and other incentives where necessary.
“Also, there is a chapter dedicated to regulators where they have been mandated to come up with initiatives of promoting developmental regulation because today many investors and young innovators consider regulators to be doing nothing but restricting the development of their startups.
“But this bill comes up with an initiative to provide what is called developmental regulation, where regulators must make the regulation very flexible to support our innovators all over the country. And also in the bill, there is a plan to establish national parks all over the country, national hubs, where innovators will go to and incubate their ideas.
“So, there are many provisions where even if a startup founder does not have one kobo, government will support him through a seed fund. Government will provide an avenue or an environment for him to come and work on his startup. Also, government is willing to support him when he gets any international partnership,” the minister said.