Is Nigeria shifting from oil dependence to tech? IT chief says yes
Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) says events have proved that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is resetting Nigeria’s economy from dependence on oil and gas sector towards the tech sector.
The IT regulator says that when Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo gave his steering speech at the 2016 e-Nigeria International Conference and Exhibition emphasizing the point that the Buhari administration is set to reset Nigeria’s economic architecture by diversifying from oil dependency and leveraging on ICT as a critical contributor to the economy.
According to him ”some people felt it was the usual talk by political leaders, without any intention to bring the vision to fruition. But events have come to prove that real change is happening in the way government is engaging with tech.”
President Buhari attended the e-Nigeria International Conference and Exhibition in 2017 to give his approval and support for the Information Technology sector and his plans for its further development.
Pantami says that NITDA has gone on a trip that seems to prove this. “It was therefore not a surprise when I received the mail that I was to join His Excellency the Vice President (VP) for a tour of the Innovation Hubs in Lagos. Although NITDA through its Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE) embarked on a similar trip in November 2017.
While expressing gratitude, the NITDA DG says the visit was aimed to gain first-hand knowledge of the innovation ecosystem.
“This was not a regular official function, it was not a time of talking and lecturing the citizens about what government has done or not done, it was a time to listen. Indeed we listened to our young, vibrant, passionate and highly motivated youths.”
According to the IT regulator, “they demonstrated to us that the best of Nigeria is yet to be unveiled. It was a tour that gave hope to all. The young people saw in the government team, a breath of fresh thinking. They did not see the grand-standing and disruptiveness that such a visit would have caused in the past.
They remained at their work, coding, some were eating some were taking selfies with the VP. It was such a joy to see the glee on everyone that day.”
NITDA is paying close attention as the Nigerian genius is unleashed, he says adding that the delegation visited six places and listened to 14 Startups who were able to say what they do during the tour.
” FarmCrowdy solves the problem of under-utilized arable farm lands, help farmers access capital, help people invest in agriculture without owning a farm and everybody gets a share of the profit, that is amazing indeed”, Pantami says in his post-event review.
“At Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF) operated by Access Bank Plc, we saw an organization getting itself ready for the new face of banking and finance. The final stop was at Co-Creation Hub, Yaba. This pioneering beehive of innovation is not resting on its oars. Cc-Hub is giving Nigeria its first home-grown cyber-security platform called Safe-Online.
“In the same place we met Re-Learn, a Startup that is working to transform difficult educational concepts into funny cartoons. We spoke with the Managing Partner of Growth Capital, Tunji Eleso who told us how they are helping fund innovations of Nigerians by Nigerian investors”, the tech regulator says.
The tour gave him the opportunity to note the opportunities and challenges of the sector as well as the impact or gap of NITDA’s interventions as an agency of Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Since we came on-board, I had often reiterated my resolve to impact the ‘Forgotten Ones’ in the tech ecosystem. By this I mean the enterprising startups, the women, children and small enterprises. One of the things we did was to reposition Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship ( OIIE) not as a competitor with the Hubs, rather to be a facilitator and policy compass to ensure the sector got all what it needed to grow”.
According to him, a draft of the Nigerian ICT Innovation And Entrepreneurship Framework (NIIEF) was prepared with the objective to cast a vision for the ICT innovation ecosystem, identify the stakeholders, define critical roles of NITDA in their development and responsibilities of all stakeholders.
“A stakeholders’ engagement was held in the 4th quarter of 2017, where representatives of the Hubs, Academia, States and Federal Government all made inputs to the Draft. The Draft was further scrutinized at the recently organized I4Policy Hackathon held in Lagos and Abuja. Inputs of stakeholders have been taken and would continue to be until we have a document fit-for-purpose.”
The committee had gathered data to identify IT projects reserved for small-scale technology companies under plans to engage relevant agencies which will reduce the entry barrier for young people who have proven competence to win government contracts, the NITDA chief explains.
“Also, we have insisted on local content where such capacities exist. Another initiative we are experimenting at NITDA is to match Startups and Hubs with successful winners of our project bids. This has proven successful in some of our programmes and projects as the young innovators bring agility and fresh-thinking to the process while getting experience and finance” .
He assured that the programme will continue and grow to become a model for implementing IT and other projects in Nigeria. “Indeed, the creative zeal and passion of the Nigerian youth has caught the attention of the world and President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is paying close attention and giving the necessary support without disrupting the disruptions, ” Pantami says.