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iHatch Demo Day: NITDA Boss Lauds Productive Outcome, Commits to Expanding Indigenous Tech Innovations

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iHatch demo 1
A cross section of winners, judges and organisers during the demo day in Abuja.

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) through the Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI), a subsidiary of the agency, in partnership with Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) held the 1st Cohorts’ Demo Day of the Idea Hatch (iHatch), with a commitment to work with relevant stakeholders and partners in implementing programmes and initiatives that will accelerate innovation and provide the much-needed jobs for Nigerian youths.

The director-general of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, represented by the national director of the National Centre for Artificial intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR), Engr. Ya’u Garba, lauded the startup incubation programme which he described as a “vibrant demonstration of the importance of collaboration” for the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship in Nigeria’s digital economy.

“The partnership with JICA in the implementation of the iHatch programme is part of our initiatives to strengthen the tech and innovation ecosystem for the creation of more IDEs that will invariably contribute to the creation of jobs for our teeming youths and the prosperity of our country.”

Abdullahi expressed the hope that the programme would go a long way in nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit of young innovative Nigerians to catalyse the Nigerian digital economy to the next level.

“This is to increase the number of innovation-driven enterprises (IDES) and to sustain the growth of Nigeria’s digital economy,” the DG said.

Abdullahi, who gave a comprehensive overview of the different processes during the incubation period, noted that over 5,000 entries were received in the countdown to the present moment.

“The number was pruned down to 8 startups, comprising a founder and co-founder for each startup, after undergoing two levels of rigorous selection process conducted by a panel of 10 judges, constituted of experts from diverse areas of technology and innovative entrepreneurship.

“The selection process assessed the startups’ ideas based on the criteria of profitability, scalability, social impact, idea technique, competitive advantage, experience, and a clearly defined future roadmap,” he added. 

According to Abdullahi, in the course of the programme, the startups benefited from free virtual and physical interactive lectures with experienced mentors, free workspace, mentorship meetings with tech professionals, pitch deck enhancement and networking opportunities. Four startups that were initially not legally registered, successfully registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) while work is in progress on the prototyping and intellectual property (IP) registration of their business ideas.

He maintained that the demo day also marks the inauguration of the second cohort of the iHatch incubation programme.

While appreciating the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami for facilitating the partnership between the Japanese and Nigerian governments and for making the iHatch programme a reality, Abdullahi also appreciated the Japanese government, through the JICA for keeping faith in the highly impactful partnership.

“Flowing from this partnership, NITDA and JICA conceptualised and designed the iHatch, a five-month free intensive incubation programme executed by the ONDI and hosted within the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR).

“Essentially, the programme is designed to help Nigerian entrepreneurs refine their business ideas through a series of coaching, lectures and boot camps to generate scalable and adaptable business models in the country,” he noted.

Referencing statistics where Nigeria reportedly to have an estimated 3,300 startups in 2020 – the highest in Africa – the NITDA boss stressed that Nigerian startups have continued to attract more investment than other countries on the continent, with a number of the startups raising about USD$600 million in the first quarter (Q1) of 2022.

“The top ten startups that attracted the funding are Flutterwave ($250 million), Moove ($105 million), ThriveAgric ($56.4 million), Reliance Health ($40 million), Bamboo ($15 million), Credpal ($15 million), SeamlessHR ($10 million), DrugStoc ($4.4 million), Casava ($4 million) and Sudo Africa ($3.7 million). These indicate the vast potentials that abound within Nigeria’s tech and innovation ecosystem.”

Meanwhile, other speakers including the chief representative, JICA Nigeria, Susumu Yakzorio and the acting national coordinator, ONDI, Yakubu Musa were optimistic that the programme will inspire Nigerians to become active players in the global, innovation-driven market.

Highpoints of the event witnessed eight innovators including e-dokta, SolutionMed, Authentic QRTech, EveryFarmer, XTID Network, Afrinet Powertech, Beta Life and Xolani Health who took turns to pitch their solutions. Xolani Health, Every Farmer and BetaLife clinched the first, second and third positions, respectively.

The winners were awarded the sum of $15,000 each, courtesy of JICA.

The demo day also signalled the end of the first cohort and the inauguration of the second cohort of the iHatch Startup Incubation Programme. Key players hoped that the third cohort would be extended across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.

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