Amidst applause and accolades, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami received the Global Winners in different categories of the LEAP 2023 Rocket Fuel Pitch Startup Competition – Wicrypt by Aronu Ugochukwu and RiceAfrika by Maigari Ahmadu.
The winner of the New World Award category, Wicrypt is a decentralised internet-sharing and monetising network which gives everyone the power to become a micro-ISP.
The winner of the Tech for Humanity category, RiceAfrika, is a tech-driven agriculture optimisation service provider in Africa, which provides a platform that connects smallholder farmers on the continent.
While meeting with the startups, Pantami insisted that Nigeria is passionate about innovation which is why it brought forth the Startup Act. He stated that the challenge of unemployment, underemployment and un-employability can only be addressed by promoting the nation’s digital innovation and digital entrepreneurship.
“We are more interested in supporting job providers than only supporting job seekers that can hardly do the work if they are employed,” he said.
He appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari for approving Nigeria’s participation in the Digital Cooperation Organisation (DCO) and thanked the DCO for fully sponsoring Nigeria’s participation at the event.
“Many countries are contributing but due to some challenges of funding, we are yet to make any contribution, but DCO sponsored 16 Nigerian startups to attend the event without a single kobo from us by providing air tickets, accommodation and everything for them.
“I want to also commend the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), particularly the management led by Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, for coordinating the event actively on our behalf and for making all our delegates and our startups very comfortable.
“I also commend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through the Minister in Charge of Communications and Information Technology, Engr. Abdullah bin Amer Alswaha, for inviting Nigeria to attend the LEAP 2023.”
While officially presenting the startups to Pantami, who led Nigeria’s delegation to the competition in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Abdullahi disclosed that, based on the directive of the minister, NITDA coordinated the participation of the startups through its subsidiary Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI).
“We worked with them, we guided them and we were there with them throughout the competition. Out of the six categories, Nigeria took two, which accounted [for] almost 33.3 per cent of the participants,” he said.
Abdullahi narrated that out of the 220, eight startups from Nigeria were selected. In the first round, 90 were selected to participate in the semi-final, with all eight Nigerian startups making the shortlist. For the final, 12 startups – including three Nigerian entrants Wicrypt (Into the New World Award category) and RiseAfrica Technology (Tech for Humanity) and Scholar Limited – qualified.
The winners appreciated the ministry and NITDA for the “platform to blossom and for pushing young people to explore their talents”.