Enabling digital Innovation and entrepreneurship

President Muhammadu Buhari, this week, inaugurated the National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship and charges the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to ensure faithful implementation of the programme.
The programme was developed in collaboration with the Presidency, Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, with the support of the Tech Ecosystem.
The National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Act, which became law in 2022, provides incentives and support for start-ups, such as tax breaks, access to funding, ease of doing business, intellectual property protection and participation in public procurement.
With that development, the Start-up and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem has received a landmark boost, especially with the enactment of the Nigeria Start-up Act 2022 (“the Act”).
This enactment elevates Nigeria to the class of countries that have seen the light and are focused on creating an enabling environment for start-ups to thrive. Nigeria now joins other countries like Italy, Tunisia, Kenya and Senegal which have enacted their start-up laws.
One interesting thing about the Nigeria Start-up Act is that it will cement Nigeria’s position as Africa’s leading digital economy. The Act will also provide an enabling environment for the growth of start-ups, guard against different growth challenges faced by start-ups and, importantly, ensure adequate harmonisation of the statutory obligations and regulations of start-ups in Nigeria.
It will also bring an end to the seemingly disruptive regulations and lack of regulatory certainty and support that start-ups face.
Some notable provisions of the Act include the establishment of the National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The Council is established as a corporate body with the right to sue and be sued.
It is headed by the President but also has a strong coalition of the Ministers of Communication and digital economy, Finance, Industry and Trade and Science and Technology, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) representatives from the Start-up Consultative Forum, Nigeria Computer Society, representatives of the Computer Professionals (Registration Council of Nigeria) and the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) who will serve as Secretary to the Council.
The functions of the Council are, among others, to formulate and provide general policy guidelines for the realisation of the objectives of the Act, give overall direction for the harmonisation of laws and regulations that affect a start-up, ensure the monitoring and evaluation of the regulatory framework to encourage the development of start-ups.
While inaugurating the Council, the President said that Nigeria has been at the forefront of the remarkable growth of startups in Africa and invested over US$4 billion between 2019 and 2022.
“This growth was fuelled by a surge in demand for digital services as people worldwide turned to technology to stay connected, work remotely and access essential goods and services largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “In Africa, the startup ecosystem has also been growing at a remarkable pace. In 2022, African startups raised a record of US$5.4 billion in funding.”
Because of the richness of the country, the President called on the Council to harness the potential of Nigeria’s young and innovative population, who have demonstrated their ingenuity, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit in creating innovative solutions to the challenges of the nation and the continent.
According to the President, and rightly too, the Startup Act 2022 testifies to the commitment of his administration to harness the potential of Nigeria’s young and innovative population.
However, while Nigeria aims to become a global talent factory through the implementation of the Startup Act 2022, unfortunately, its startup ecosystem still faces significant challenges, especially in the areas of funding, infrastructure and skilled talent.
Gladly, the provisions of the Nigeria Startup Act 2022 represent an important step towards addressing issues of funding, infrastructure and skilled talent, and promoting the growth of a more vibrant and inclusive startup ecosystem in the country.
Particularly, implementation of the Act will lead to consolidation and further development of the gains recorded by Nigeria’s digital economy, in the last four years, in the areas of contribution to GDP and increased revenue generation, among others.
After all, digital innovation and entrepreneurship are globally recognised as two prerequisites for achieving an indigenous digital economy and, as such, a successful digital innovation and entrepreneurship programme will, eventually, support Nigeria in the development of its digital economy.

On the N15.3 billion ICT components for the 2023 Census…

The need for an accurate, reliable and acceptable population census in Nigeria cannot be overemphasised. This concern has become of even greater significance in the face of the dynamism of modern-day socio-economic planning both at the macro and micro levels.
A census is a procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population.
Population census is the process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analysing and publishing or otherwise disseminating demographic, economic and social data pertaining, at a specified time to all persons in a country or in a well-delaminated part of a country. Census, in other words, is purely a statistical exercise.
In Nigeria, planning for socio-economic development has been adversely affected by the inadequacy, obsolescence and unreliability of available demographic data.
Past national development plans in Nigeria have failed simply because of a lack of demographic data for planning. Demographic data derived from population censuses are useful to every government for planning.
Thus, this week, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved two contracts worth N15.3 billion for the supply and installation of information and communication technology (ICT) components and digital assistance devices for the successful conduct of the 2023 population census.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, made this development known in Abuja, recently.
He said: “Among those memos that were okayed today was the award of the contract for the supply and installation of information and communication technology (ICT) components for the 2023 population census… The ICT component contract was awarded for about N10.9 billion.
“Another contract that was approved for the National Population Commission was the contract for the development and implementation of mobile device management solution for the personal digital assistance devices to be used for the 2023 population census in the sum of about N4.4 billion.”
It should be noted that the urgency of Nigeria’s development needs has generated concern not only in Nigeria itself but also throughout the world. Nigeria, presently, ranks among the capitals of poverty in the world.
Thus, efforts at self-reliant growth must proceed at a very rapid pace if the welfare of Nigerian citizens is to be improved.
Sadly, the basic ingredients for planning for development, which is population data, including the actual number of the population and its composition according to age, and sex, among others, remain largely unknown here.
Similarly, estimates of the total population in the country, in each state and in each local government area are, largely, unknown, making the nation plan for development without the most fundamental characteristics of the people whose welfare is to be improved.
Sadly, too, knowledge about the numbers who must work in all sectors of the economy to bring about the much-needed development to the country is also tantamount to groping in the dark.
Of course, successive Nigerian governments understood the importance of an accurate census as the basic tool for development planning. Consequently, censuses of parts and the whole of Nigeria have been conducted since 1866.
However, since Nigeria attained political independence in 1960, all efforts at conducting a national census have met with serious problems. Among the several reasons for unsuccessful attempts at census taking are inadequate education about the census and general ignorance regarding population census in general and the use of census data in particular.
It is, therefore, hoped that these crucial and other serious factors that have combined to render censuses controversial in Nigeria will, this time around be properly addressed by the Buhari-led administration.

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