Monday, July 4, 2022

Digital Economy: PMB Assents Nigerian Start-up Bill

…It’ll solve start-up ecosystem problems – Pantami

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to the Nigerian Start-up Bill and directed the same to be forwarded to the National Assembly for more legislative work and passage into law.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, made this disclosure during a breakfast interactive session with Nigeria’s innovative ecosystem themed “Fostering an enabling environment for start-up growth” organised by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in Lagos.

Giving insights into the provision of the bill, Pantami maintained that when passed into law, the bill would solve a barrage of problems confronting the digital economy start-up ecosystem. He said this makes provision for the constitution of the Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship that would serve as an advisory body for the sector. 

According to him, the members of the council would comprise the president as chairman, supported by the vice-president while the minister of communication and digital economy deputises for him. Other members of the council are, the minister of finance, Corporate Affairs Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service and other institutions of government.     

Pantami listed other provisions in the bill to include; tax and fiscal incentives, start-up labelling and profiling, provision for grants and loans by the government, tax holidays, national investment start-up seed funds among others.

While commending the start-up ecosystem for its inputs in drafting the bill, the minister allayed fears that none of their input was removed during the debate on the bill at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.

He said it was a deliberate intention to seek the inputs of the stakeholders before drafting the bill. “We decided to experiment with the down-top approach so the stakeholders would own the bill.”  

The minister was optimistic that when passed into law, the Bill would address most of the challenges facing the sector and the sector would be good for it.    

Similarly, NITDA’s director-general, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, noted that the government recognises the disconnect that exists between it and the industry, hence its readiness to bridge it. 

“Also, we realised that there were so many funding incentives but mostly you don’t know them because there is a disconnection between the government and the ecosystem. We are working in partnership with the Lagos Business School to develop a compendium of existing government incentives which we will liaise with you to see how you can benefit from them,” he said. 

The DG stated that a lot of efforts are currently going on to raise funds for the start-up but the challenge remained the obscurity of most of them.

“The Last time I was with the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, he said they have money at the bank. I told him our startups have challenges accessing those funds, he said the challenge is they don’t know most of the startups. How can you just come up with an idea and they give you money? However, we thought of coming up with something to enable the startups to access the money by standing as guarantors for them.” 

While emphasising various initiatives of the agency towards developing the sector, he recalled the minister’s directive that informed them to come up with a scheme called Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support. According to him, the scheme is designed to identify talented startups and youths with ideas, place them in a developed hub for training and motivation and at the end, “give them start-up vouchers to help them with funding to develop product and services”.

Earlier in his remarks, the event chairman, Prof. Pat Utomi, noted that it has become imperative for the public and private sector to seamlessly engage for the development of the sector, to help the country to witness the growth of the sector.

He expressed optimism that the value added by participants could change the country’s fortunes and that of Africa generally. He added that the government will take advantage of the engagement to proffer solutions to the issues pointed out by stakeholders   

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