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Harness Nigeria’s Youthful Population For Global Impact, NITDA DG Urges Japan

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A cross section of startups and dignitaries during the iHatch startup incubation programme in Abuja.

The director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi has called on the government of Japan to establish a strategic talent partnership with Nigeria in order to explore the untapped potential of Nigeria’s youthful population.

This collaboration aims to nurture and build a workforce that can be globally competitive and exported.

The call was made during the iHatch startup incubation programme’s 2nd cohort demo day and the 3rd cohort opening ceremony, organised by the Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI), a subsidiary of NITDA, in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Abuja.

Abdullahi emphasised the significance of the iHatch five-month free intensive incubation programme hosted by the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR). This initiative, executed by ONDI, is designed to refine the business ideas of Nigerian tech entrepreneurs through coaching, lectures and boot camps. The ultimate goal is to develop scalable and adaptable business models focusing on youth, innovation, entrepreneurship and technology.

The programme is set to take place simultaneously in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Gombe and Kano. JICA has agreed to extend the 4th cohort across all 36 states and the FCT, ensuring a wider reach and stimulating startup ecosystems nationwide.

During the event, Abdullahi revealed that 1,218 applications were received for the 2nd cohort and after a rigorous selection process, eight startups comprising 16 individuals were chosen. For the 3rd cohort, a total of 11,183 applications were received from across the six geopolitical zones, resulting in the selection of the top 8 startups with 16 founders.

Highlighting the success stories of the incubation program, the DG mentioned that startups from the first and second cohorts have achieved remarkable success in job creation, funding, event participation and valuable partnerships, creating a combined total of 179 direct jobs in agriculture, health, education and e-commerce.

Abdullahi also emphasised the agency’s commitment to working with stakeholders for the successful implementation of the Nigeria Startup Act (NSA), aiming to accelerate innovation and provide jobs for Nigerian youths.

Dr. Femi Adeluyi, who represented the Minister of Industry, Trade & Investment, Doris Nkiruka Uzoka-Anite commended NITDA for its initiatives in advancing the tech ecosystem. He highlighted the agency’s emphasis, as articulated by the NITDA DG during the Digital Nigeria International Conference 2023, on making Nigeria the talent destination of the world.

The minister acknowledged the pivotal role of technology and the significant value of the green transition scoreboard in digitally preparing people for various sectors of the economy.

The Ambassador of Japan to Nigeria, Matsunaga Kazuyoshi represented by Chief of Nigeria Office, Yuzurio Susumu acknowledged Nigeria as a hub of entrepreneurship activities. Despite facing challenges, Nigerian startups showcase creativity and resilience in developing solutions for critical social issues.

Kazuyoshi pointed out that the present administration recognizes the transformation potential of startups and digitisation, key factors in diversifying the Nigerian economy. Startups, as catalysts for business transformation, bring fresh ideas, innovative technologies and new employment opportunities.

Among those in attendance were representatives from both the private and public sectors and the top three startups—Fundus AI (1st position, $15,000), Reno (2nd position, $12,000) and Ilim Tutors (3rd position, $10,000)—emerged with cash prizes.

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