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Empower Nigerians With Digital Skills Through Student Loans, NITDA DG Urges NELFUND

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L-R: The director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi presenting the NITDA Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2.0) to the executive secretary, NELFUND, Akintunde Sawyer at the agency’s headquarters in Abuja.

The director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi has advised the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) to consider accommodating short courses on digital skills.

Abdullahi shared this insight during a meeting with a delegation from NELFUND, led by its executive secretary, Akintunde Sawyer, in Abuja.

Abdullahi emphasised the importance of adapting to a world that values skills acquisition over certificates, urging NELFUND to support Nigerians interested in enrolling in short courses to acquire digital skills. He highlighted that this initiative would empower citizens with globally sought-after skills, positioning Nigeria as a hub for exporting skilled individuals.

The purpose of the meeting was to foster learning, and collaboration, and to present a demonstration of the NELFUND Portal to NITDA for input. Abdullahi underscored the need to recognise the role of five critical stakeholders in the ecosystem – higher institutions of learning, corporate organisations, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and the government.

According to Abdullahi, close collaboration with higher institutions of learning is essential, as they produce the human capital that corporate organisations absorb. To bridge the gap between institutions and corporations, he emphasised the importance of understanding the skills in demand and the role of short courses in preparing graduates for the private sector.

Acknowledging NITDA’s collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education to review tertiary institution curricula, Abdullahi stressed the need for students to be trained with the mindset of creating jobs rather than seeking white-collar employment.

Abdullahi also highlighted the importance of venture capitalists investing in the technology ecosystem, pointing out that Nigeria’s tech sector attracts over 30 per cent of foreign direct investment (FDI), with 70 per cent coming from the United States. He mentioned the agency’s efforts to set up seed funding for startups to encourage indigenous venture capitalists.

The NITDA director commended the development of the NELFUND portal, suggesting that it should be made mobile-friendly to cater to individuals accessing it through their mobile phones. He proposed organiding a user acceptance test to check for vulnerabilities and emphasided the need for a data protection compliance test to ensure compliance with the Nigeria Data Protection Regulations (NDPR).

Abdullahi assured NELFUND of NITDA’s commitment to providing necessary support, aligning with their shared interest in NITDA’s Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2.0).

In response, Sawyer, shared the initiative’s mission to revolutionise higher education accessibility by providing interest-free loans to eligible students. He expressed the intention to connect as many Nigerians as possible to the fund, enabling them to pursue tertiary education and repay after completing their mandatory National Youth Service programme.

He welcomed the challenge from NITDA, emphasising the importance of collaboration and learning from the agency to enhance NELFUND’s impact. The collaborative efforts between NITDA and NELFUND reflect a shared commitment to advancing education and skills acquisition in Nigeria.

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