The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), in collaboration with Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA), has commenced a two-week intensive North-East Startups Training Programme (NEST).
NEST, which targets youths in innovation, entrepreneurship and technology, is designed to help Nigerian entrepreneurs in the region refine their business ideas through a series of coaching, lectures and boot camps to generate viable and scalable business models.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, the director-general, NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi reaffirmed the agency’s commitment towards sustaining the tremendous growth of Nigeria’s tech and innovation ecosystem.
Represented by the acting national coordinator, Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI), Yakubu Musa, the NITDA DG said the agency will not relent in working with relevant stakeholders to create an enabling environment for youths who constitute about 60 per cent of the nation’s population, to continuously innovate and achieve their dreams of turning their innovative ideas into thriving enterprises, thereby creating jobs and improving the quality of lives of Nigerians.
Abdullahi recalled that the recent enactment of the Nigeria Startup Act is a significant milestone that will strengthen the legal and institutional framework for the development and operation of startups in Nigeria, foster the development of technology-related businesses in the country and further consolidate the position of Nigeria’s startup ecosystem as the leading digital hub in Africa.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new normal and completely changed the way we live, work and do business with one another. Despite its ravaging effects on most sectors of the economy, it has helped in accelerating digital transformation by 3 to 4 years as reported by McKinsey. Therefore, to remain competitive in this new business and economic environment, new strategies and practices are required,” Abdullahi averred.
To ensure that Nigeria remains competitive in the global digital economy, Abdullahi noted that the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, under the leadership of the minister, Prof. Isa Pantami, developed the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a digital Nigeria.
According to Abdullahi, the rigorous implementation of the NDEPS was highly instrumental in lifting Nigeria out of recession in 2021 and has seen the increasing contribution of the ICT sector to Nigeria’s GDP, with an unprecedented contribution of 18.44 per cent in Q2 2022.
“In line with the NDEPS, we unveiled the NITDA Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP) 2021-2024, to help us evolve and be more flexible to remain ahead of the curve in guiding the IT sector, fostering the digitalisation of other sectors of the economy for a sustainable digital economy and creation of jobs for the youths. The SRAP is anchored on 7 strategic pillars, one of which is digital innovation and entrepreneurship [pillar].
“This pillar aims to facilitate the creation and growth of more innovation-driven enterprises (IDEs). Indeed, market-creating innovations are key to the prosperity of Nigeria. Therefore, we are partnering and collaborating with relevant ecosystem stakeholders on various initiatives towards achieving the objectives of the pillar; and one of the initiatives is the NEST programme that we are launching today,” the DG stressed.
Abdullahi appreciated the government of Japan, through JICA for the impactful partnership both parties have enjoyed so far, not only on the NEST programme but other programmes such as the Idea Hatch (iHatch) Startup Incubation Programme and the NINJA Acceleration Programme, as well as for consistently supporting the agency’s efforts to develop and expand the number of IDEs in Nigeria.
“JICA has, again, proven to be a dependable partner and aligned with NITDA’s goal of consolidating Nigeria’s position as the leading entrepreneurial hub in Africa and an emerging global digital talent hub.
“I wish to express our earnest appreciation for JICA’s partnership to strengthen the tech innovation ecosystem and ensure that more IDEs are created to transform and impact Nigeria’s economic fortunes.”
The DG urged the 20 participating startups to take full advantage of the knowledge and insights the programme will offer them and use the same to transform and reposition their businesses for greater impact on the economy of the North-East region and Nigeria as a whole, adding that NITDA – under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy – is on a journey to shaping and winning the digital future and is leaving no stone unturned in providing the required support for Nigerian innovation.
“You were all selected through a rigorous selection process that saw the assessment of 8,541 applications submitted for the NEST programme. As such, let me use this platform to urge you to stay focused and open-minded to fully harness the opportunities provided by this training to enhance your business operations.
“Indeed, the outcome of this programme will provide you with the resources and skills required to move your businesses to higher levels and become active players within the Nigerian, global tech and innovation ecosystem,” Abdullahi assured.
Other speakers, including Japan’s ambassador to Nigeria, Matsunaga Kazuyoshi, expressed appreciation for the collaboration and hoped that the beneficiaries would live up to expectations after the two-week training.