—We want to use our experience help Nigeria, Africa Jack Ma
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday said that government must provide the infrastructure for purposes of enabling the entrepreneurs to do more effective business in the country.
Prof. Osinbajo stated this when he received Mr Jack Ma – co-founder and former executive chairman of the globally renowned Alibaba Group, who led a delegation of Chinese investors to Nigeria, at the Presidential Villa.
Ma was also the guest speaker at the first-ever Digital Economy Summit with the theme, “Leveraging Digital Economy for Trade & Investment, “at the Statehouse Banquet Hall, Abuja.
The Vice President at the visit noted that the creativity and resourcefulness of young Nigerians doing incredible things in the technology space across the country and beyond present great opportunities for partnerships with global technology giants.
He said, “The point you made is important, namely, that Government must provide the infrastructure for purposes of enabling the entrepreneurs to do more effective business.
“So, that is one of the critical areas for us. We have a programme that is called Broadband Connectivity for all by 2023 which is basically to see how we can deepen connectivity for all.
“We are also looking just as you said about e-government, that’s also crucial because government tends to be viewed with a great deal of suspicion, nobody is quite sure of what the government is up to all the time. We think that the government can benefit from the efficiencies that the digital economy provides.
“So we are at a point where we are also looking at how to revolutionize government businesses so that we can do more in terms of business with the ordinary citizens, give more information, do more transactions, get passports and licenses and approvals online and that kind of thing.”
On the opportunities available to young people, Osinbajo said: “…just as you said, Nigeria represents an incredible opportunity and potential, and we had spoken a few minutes ago about how Nigeria will in another two decades or so become be the third largest in terms of population in the entire world.
“The largest segment of that population are young people, under 25, who will be over 60 per cent of that population.
“This is an exciting time for us and we are really happy that you are here and I know the young people and lots of businesses and entrepreneurs are looking forward to your interaction with them later today.
“I think you will find a very energetic, very creative group of young men and women and older men and women who are increasingly interested in entrepreneurship especially digital entrepreneurship.
“So, the potential is tremendous, it is an incredible potential that we have. So, we are at a point, and your coming is very strategic, in our trajectory and in the progress of our country.
“I think, it is a very important moment and what we are seeing – a lot of entrepreneurship, a lot of young people who are very actively engaged in the digital economy at various levels.”
He explained some of the steps already taken by the Buhari administration to support young Nigerians in the technology space in building skills and capacities to create opportunities for themselves and others.
According to him, “But just as I said earlier, one of the critical things for us is that with a huge population and so many people living in the rural area, we have major issues around financial inclusions for large numbers of our people.
“And so making payments or doing financial transactions across the country presents a challenge which we have to meet.”
Speaking specifically about the impact of the Federal Government’s N-Power programme the Vice President said, “We started a job programme for young people called N-Power where we engaged half a million young people.
“We wanted to build the E-infrastructure to make this happen, so we gathered a group of young entrepreneurs, so they put together the system which enabled us to engage the half-million people.
“We pay them online, we teach them online, we put materials in open portals for them so that they can actually access these portals. They also have the equipment (like the one I have) which helps them to train as extension workers for farms.
“They also work as teachers, so, we train them also using these open portals and all others and it proved to be tremendously successful,” he added.
Earlier in his remarks, Ma said he flew 15 hours to Nigeria, a country he has always looked forward to visiting.
He said his company was working on promoting technological innovation in the areas of E-infrastructure, Entrepreneurship, E-governance and Education in Nigeria and other African countries.
He said that four Nigerian technology entrepreneurs made into top 10 African entrepreneurs in the competition supported by Alibaba Group and the result will be known in two days.
He said, “We flew 15 hours into Nigeria and we are excited. This trip is to try to understand Africa more. We came to Africa four years ago and our plan is to visit four, five countries on every trip. My personal target is to try and visit every country in Africa in 10 years and support Africa.
“Nigeria is a great country with a large population, very strong economy, excellent young people with excellent innovations. And this is a country I have looked forward to visiting a lot and I think our team today realized our dreams by meeting you and the ministers.
“We also want help through four Es in Africa. The first, E-list is E-infrastructure – support internet connections to everybody. We hope that every young person, every small business should have access to the internet to do business anywhere, anytime.
“The second E is support entrepreneurs, this is very important. We think we can make entrepreneurs as the heroes of the African continent. In China, it is the entrepreneurs that promote business development, government support entrepreneurs.
“The third is E-government, if the government is on E, it will be very efficient, transparent, people will know the government can help and the government will know what the people want.
“The last and very important E is education.
“In the next few days we are going to have all the internet prize, everyone in Africa can apply for an award. I am happy to ear and know that four Nigerian entrepreneurs are among the top 10. We will have the final competition in two days and I think Nigeria entrepreneurs will have a great result.
“This is just the beginning. Our jobs are to support entrepreneurs. Everyone in the delegation, we are all founders of our own businesses in China. We think what we have experienced in China can help Africa entrepreneurs develop, support e-infrastructure, e-government, e-entrepreneurs and e-education and this is what we came here for.
“We will love to have advised and know government’s direction so that we can do a better job.”