Digital Economy Unleashes Potential For Emerging Techs, Empowering African Youths – NITDA DG

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The director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi.
The director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi.

The director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, has credited the promotion and adoption of digital technologies as having created a digital revolution in Africa and a clear pathway for talented youths on the continent to emerge as global leaders by harnessing their potential.

Abdullahi pointed this out in a speech delivered at the Leaders Without Borders Annual Business Summit and International Honors 2023 in London, themed “Business Beyond Borders, Global Partnerships and Sustainable Investments”.

The summit brought together business leaders, entrepreneurs and thought leaders from around the world to foster collaboration and innovation in the business world.

Reflecting on NITDA’s history, Abdullahi pointed out that the agency, established in 2001, was initially focused on promoting IT usage among Nigerians. At that time, less than 500,000 Nigerians had access to computers, contributing a mere 0.05 per cent to the country’s GDP. However, the landscape has drastically changed over the years. Presently, more than 120 million Nigerians have internet access, and the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector now contributes over 18.5 per cent to the nation’s GDP.

Highlighting the shift in NITDA’s policies, Abdullahi stated, “The NITDA Act was passed into law in 2007 and, by 2012, we had the National ICT Policy. In 2019, we adopted the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), signifying a major transition in the agency’s focus. Previous policies primarily concerned the use of information technology, while the new digital economy policy centres on leveraging ICT to drive economic activities. This approach recognises that technology is not an end in itself but a means to an end”.

Abdullahi explained that NITDA’s mandates revolve around developing the national digital economy ecosystem, encompassing developmental regulation to level the playing field for business startups, interventions in policies and infrastructure for underserved communities, and providing seed funding to youth innovators to develop proof of concept and prototypes.

Under the agency’s purview, numerous regulatory frameworks have been established to facilitate IT development in government establishments. Additionally, NITDA has facilitated the growth of digital skills in educational institutions, rural areas and cities to nurture human capital and provide universal access to digital services, thereby fostering a knowledge-based economy.

To bolster the talent pool in Nigeria, NITDA established the National Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) to promote research, development, and adoption of emerging technologies within the country.

An official at NITDA, Abdullahi praised Nigeria’s thriving tech ecosystem, highlighting the dominance of fintech companies and the rapid growth of sectors such as e-commerce, e-health, mobility and logistics, e-recruitment, agric-tech, prop-tech and smart homes. He noted that Nigeria’s tech ecosystem has attracted approximately $4.4 billion in investments between 2015 and 2020, with ICT contributing significantly to the nation’s GDP.

Abdullahi emphasised the five critical stakeholders in the ecosystem: institutions (universities that produce valuable human capital in Africa), the government (creating a conducive environment for businesses through legislation and policies), private organisations (employing the produced human capital and purchasing goods and services), risk capital (essential for investment and economic growth), and entrepreneurs (understanding market needs and driving business growth).

In his closing remarks, Abdullahi highlighted NITDA’s commitment to digital literacy, aiming to enable every Nigerian to use digital devices and consume digital services by utilising local languages. The agency has already trained over 3.3 million Nigerians in digital literacy, contributing to economic growth.

Furthermore, Abdullahi highlighted NITDA’s IT project clearance initiative, which has saved Nigeria over N305 billion since 2019 by preventing duplication of projects in government agencies. This effort has improved the effectiveness and efficiency of government IT projects across the country.

As a testament to his exceptional leadership and contributions to Nigeria’s IT sector, Abdullahi received an award during the event, recognising his dedication to the growth and development of the Nigerian information technology industry.

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