As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to commemorate the 2022 United Nations’ World Creativity and Innovation Day (WCID), the Federal Government has tasked Nigerians to prioritise skills over ‘paper’ qualifications.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, made this call during an event organised by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to commemorate the day.
Pantami reiterated that priority and preference are no more given to the class of degree but to the innovative ideas one can graduate with.
“The approach today is that when a student gets admitted into a higher institution he would be directed to come up with his start-up within a year, work on this till he graduates with his own company and becomes a potential employer. That is the best way of managing the challenge of unemployment, particularly in Nigeria, where we have the challenge of unemployment and unemployability,” he said.
The minister who noted that no country can develop its digital economy without prioritising digital innovation said the increased attention turned to the sector by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is yielding the desired results as innovation and entrepreneurship remain the two prerequisites currently being explored by the country in developing its indigenous digital economy.
He commended NITDA’s director-general, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, members of staff of the agency and the two subsidiaries, including the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) and the Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI), on what they have achieved on behalf of the Federal Government in digital innovation and entrepreneurship.
Pantami further charged the agency and its subsidiaries to redouble efforts in promoting innovation and creativity as the “reward for hard work is more work”.
Describing the theme “Creativity and Innovation; Powering Collaboration for a Sustainable Digital Economy” as an integral part of more than five of the seven pillars of the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy which are directly associated with creativity and innovation, the minister urged everyone at the event not to make the commemoration just a one-off thing.
He encouraged them to identify the challenges Nigerians are being confronted with and collectively or individually proffer solutions that would address the myriads of issues in different sectors of the economy, including health, education, finance, security, agriculture, governance and many more.
“You cannot innovate without creativity and you cannot be creative without critical and analytical thinking. The wisdom behind this celebration is to create awareness where people globally will understand how important it is to be creative and innovative, particularly towards problem-solving,” he stated.
According to Pantami, the Buhari administration has done a lot in supporting the ministry and the sector in general, especially by coming up with several policies – some of which brought about the creation of subsidiaries (NCAIR and ONDI) and the start-up bill which seeks to address the setbacks being experienced by young Nigerian innovators. He expressed the hope that when the bill becomes a law, it would go a long way in addressing more than 90 per cent of the challenges confronting innovators in the country.
Speaking earlier on the essence of the commemoration, Abdullahi said the agency keyed into the transformative initiative to make strategic realignments to consolidate the gains and globally position Nigeria as a leading digital innovation and entrepreneurship hub.
While maintaining that the initiative aligns with the National Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria, he added that it would help Nigeria create and capture value from innovation.
“We are targeting security, agric, health, education and FinTech. Thankfully, we have many of them here showcasing what they have done in collaboration with the centre. Innovation is the wealth of the 21st-century economy and it’s only through innovation that we can solve problems, and create wealth and prosperity for our country. Therefore, NITDA and the centre are doing what is going to transform Nigeria into a leading digital economy,” he said.
The NITDA boss who enumerated the efforts of the agency over the years in supporting young innovators and startups with not just grants, but also mentorships and promotion of their different innovative solutions at local and international fora, noted that since the centre was inaugurated, it has organised multiple innovation challenges, including the Bridge to Mass and iHatch Challenge.
Abdullahi appreciated the minister for his continuous support and expressed optimism that the agency will not relent in working towards achieving the bigger picture of the Federal Government of achieving a Digital Nigeria by 2030.
Also speaking, the national coordinator, NCAIR, Engr. Y’au Garba expressed confidence in the centre’s ability to transform Nigeria digitally, especially with NITDA’s commitment to supporting its programmes and developmental projects.
Garba was emphatic that the centre would hatch more and more indigenous innovations that would solve local problems but also have a global impact.
Meanwhile, the event also featured a brief tour of the Exhibitors’ booth by the minister in the company of the DG and other key stakeholders as five startups who simultaneously engaged in Innovation Pitch Competition were announced as winners and rewarded with cash prizes accordingly.
The WCID is dedicated to raising awareness about the role of creativity and innovation in all aspects of human development, highlighting the importance of creativity and innovation for utmost efficiency in advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.