By Emmanuel Elebeke
The Minister for Communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu, has said that the only way Nigeria can get out of the economic woods is to embrace innovations in information and communications technology, ICT.
Shittu who was a guest at the just concluded ICT Start-up Ecosystem stakeholders meeting organized by National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, in Abuja, said that is why Nigeria has spent a total $70 billion to support IT start-ups since 2001.
The Minister however said this culture has to be consistent and better improved for Nigeria to compete in the global stage. “Government has no option but to support the innovators and entrepreneurs in order to survive and create jobs to the teaming population. The entire civil service is made up of only 1.5 million Nigerians, yet we have a population of about 180 million. That means that government has barely been able to provide one percent of direct jobs for the population.
‘‘Whether we like it or not, since government cannot provide jobs for everybody, government must create enabling environment for everybody to responsibly be engaged. If we can appreciate what is happening in other climes, it means Nigeria’s government has a primary duty, not only to create the enabling environment for innovation and entrepreneurship to thrive, but we must amass positive support and collaboration for innovators and entrepreneurs to be properly engaged, so that they can contribute to national development.
That is why is imperative for us as a government to support your efforts in innovation and entrepreneurship. You can be rest assured that whatever you want to do, we as a government are ready to do it,’’ he said.
In his presentation, Barrister Kasim Sodanji of the Office for Nigerian Content Development in ICT, ONC, an arm of NITDA, corroborated the minister’s claim that Nigeria has spent about $70 billion to support IT start-ups since 2001.
Sodanji, who spoke on National Start-up Innovation Fund, said government had intervened in many sectors of the economy, but has not made appreciable intervention in the IT sector. “Nigeria has less venture capital with less than 100 agent investors that get access in Nigeria. For this country to compete globally in the IT sector government must invest more to justify the objective. Nigeria has intervened in many sectors. The intervention Nigeria has had over the last 15 years is N1.7 trillion. But this money has gone into various other areas of the economy.”
We have not intervened in the ICT sector the way we should, despite the fact that ICT is the third in contribution to GDP. Millions of jobs are lost due to the poor intervention.
‘‘For start-ups to survive, government must look for a way to catalyze private sector funds so that we can have funds for long term ICT funding for start-ups in Nigeria. This fund is one that must compete globally so that other people can comfortably key into it.’’
Director General, NITDA, Isa Pantami, during his address said the workshop is meant for ideas sharing among innovators and entrepreneurs because of the indispensability of IT in job creation.
His words; “The ICT sector is a catalyst in addressing the needs and interests of many other sectors. The growth rate of tech innovators in ICT has accelerated dramatically and this encompasses more diverse players than ever before. Technology increases productivity, therefore, when people share access in form of collaboration they build stronger business strategy for establishing large successful firms in the business ecosystem.”