The director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, has emphasised the pivotal role of digital innovation in enhancing the lives of Africans and propelling the continent’s digital economy forward.
Abdullahi, represented by the national coordinator of the Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI), Yakubu Musa conveyed this message at the e-Tech Africa Summit held in Abuja.
Abdullahi stated that digital innovation entails utilising technology to “enhance the way we do things,” leading to increased efficiency in providing cutting-edge solutions, goods and services at a cost-effective price. He emphasised that digital innovation holds the potential to augment government openness, accountability, and efficiency, thereby bringing governance closer to the people.
“Today,” he said “digital skills are becoming ever more important in Africa as the continent is poised at the threshold of massive growth and acceleration in the world. Currently, Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) is USD 3.1 Trillion, with digital innovations contributing 200 billion USD”.
He referred to a Statista report and highlighted that Africa’s population is projected to double by 2050, presenting boundless opportunities for robust and inclusive growth that harnesses its rich natural resources and abundant human potential, benefiting not only Africa but the entire world.
“To harness this abundant and crucial asset, Africa needs to be digitally connected and skilled,” noted the director-general. He stressed the urgency of resolving certain challenges to unlock Africa’s digital potential, stating, “One of the resources required to transform the African digital innovation ecosystem is digital talent. Lack of relevant skills can limit the opportunities for African countries, therefore, continuous programmes for learning digital literacy and skills should be prioritised to increase human capacity and achieve digital inclusion.”
Abdullahi underscored the imperative need to enhance broadband access at more affordable rates, emphasising that digital transformation is intrinsically linked to internet accessibility. He further stated, “Proper planning and incentives for young people engaging in digital innovation are necessary to encourage them to develop technologies that address our peculiar local problems and socioeconomic needs”.
While acknowledging the existing challenges, Abdullahi identified the creation of functional digital infrastructure and its modernization as crucial steps to fully capitalise on the digital economy’s potential. He highlighted the Pitchfest competition at the summit, which offers talented youths a platform to showcase their innovative ideas and solutions aimed at enhancing productivity across various sectors and improving the efficiency of delivering innovative products and services.
Abdullahi also encouraged participants to pitch well-defined ideas and develop solutions that would contribute to the growth of Africa’s digital innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. He revealed that NITDA’s initiatives, such as the Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI) and the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR), align with the goals of the summit. The ONDI, in particular, seeks to promote and protect Nigeria’s digital innovation ecosystem, fostering job creation and the proliferation of market-creating innovations for the nation’s prosperity.
Praising the event’s organisers, Abdullahi called upon other relevant organisations throughout the country to initiate similar hackathons and competitions. He emphasised the importance of empowering indigenous tech innovators to develop solutions addressing the nation’s challenges. He reiterated NITDA’s commitment to collaborating with e-Tech Africa and similar organisations to support and promote exceptional indigenous innovators, thereby enhancing Nigeria’s economic prospects and contributing to Africa’s digital economy.
The founder of Moolu Venture Capital, Prince Ogbonna also shared his perspective at the summit, aligning with NITDA’s sentiments. He emphasised the necessity of more infrastructure and funding to bolster the digital economy, highlighting their focus on increasing assets, reducing costs, and improving quality within the digital landscape.