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Nigeria’s digital economy under Buhari

Top officials overseeing the country’s digital economy were optimistic that, at least, 90 percent of Nigerians would be digitally literate by 2030. That promise was…

Top officials overseeing the country’s digital economy were optimistic that, at least, 90 percent of Nigerians would be digitally literate by 2030. That promise was made in 2019 when the country’s digital economy journey gained momentum.  But how far has this gone, four years down the line? 

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami said President Buhari had positioned Nigeria for the gains of the digital economy because of his re-designation of the communications ministry to digital economy. 

Pantami said this is particularly significant as it enables Information and Communication Technology (ICT) – which is the most diverse and fastest-growing sector – to mobilise other sectors and align with the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the Federal Government.

The minister said this is quite fitting, as it also ensures that the name of the Ministry captures its objective in keeping with best global practices.

Following the re-designation, the minister stated that the Federal Government directed the ministry to develop and implement a national digital economy strategy. This, he said, was done by the ministry and unveiled by the President at the e-Nigeria Conference in November 2019.

Pantami said the policy captures the thematic focus while the strategy speaks to how the various themes will be achieved.

Speaking further, Pantami declared that all other MDAs were connected to the strategy in view of the centrality of ICT to development in other sectors of the economy. He emphasised that the role of the ministry is to coordinate the implementation of the policy and the strategy.

The minister stated that the implementation of the strategy begun after a few months and stressed that by the end of the decade, the Federal Government expects every Nigerian to have connected with and expressed the goal of digital Nigeria by being computer literate, owning a digital device (which the agencies in the ministry have been assisting to facilitate), having access to the Internet, owning a bank account that can be accessed and operated digitally and online. Beyond financial services, the minister said the Federal Government hopes to see the majority of the citizens undertake many activities electronically.

According to him,  online communications and transactions should focus on and encourage digital economy and ensure taxes and prices come down because when prices come down, demand goes up” and entrepreneurs make more profits.

He also said different sections of the population had been trained and retrained. These included women, youths, journalists, civil servants and those who are certificated but unemployed.

He said the government ensured the availability of robust data centres and worked hard for broadband expansion..

Pantami recalled the eight  pillars of the policy which he enjoined all tiers of government and all stakeholders to begin to explore for implementation.

Meanwhile, the Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa has said digital economy had created a pathway for emerging technologies and provided opportunities for youths in Nigeria to emerge as global leaders by harnessing their potentials.

The NITDA DG said 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.

“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 in valuation, while Flutterwave is almost $3.6 billion. 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”, he said. 

He disclosed that the Nigeria tech ecosystem had attracted about $4.4bn investment between the year 2015, 2019 and 2020 respectively, and ICT contributing to about 18.5% to the nation’s GDP.

NITDA, he said, had upported about 753 start-ups in different ways through training, seed funding and grants. 

He said: “Recently, we took some start-ups to Riyadh for competition, which two of them emerged as global winners and won $150,000 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.”

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.

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