What Pantami said about BVN, NIN

…Challenges innovators on 5 problem solving solutions
By Emmanuel Elebeke

The Federal government has assured that the Nigerian Startup Bill when passed into law will address the numerous challenges confronting young innovators in the country.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Pantami gave the assurance in his keynote address delivered at the World Creativity and Innovation Day 2022, organised by the National Information and Technology Development Agency, NITDA on Thursday in Abuja.

The Minister said the administration came up with the bill among other proposals in the Digital Economy Policy in order to support innovation in Nigeria.
Recall that the bill was introduced in December 2021 as one development strategy that is expected to improve the business environment for Startups in Nigeria when passed into law. It is aimed at creating a favourable environment for Startups by providing incentives; removing regulatory constraints; and developing an ecosystem for Startups to thrive.

Some of the salient provisions proposed by the Bill include elimination of multiple taxation and regulation, provision of soft loan and seed funding to young innovators.
The bill was in February 2022 approved by the Federal Executive Council and in March passed to the National Assembly for passage into law.

According to the Minister, the bill seeks to position the country’s startup ecosystem and to establish a National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

‘‘The bill when approved will have a Council, where some government officials and private sector will come together to discuss the challenge of innovation ecosystem in Nigeria and present the solutions for approval there and then. It is to be chaired by the president and supported by the Vice president, while the Minister of Digital Economy will be a Co-chair.
‘‘Also, the Council will equally discuss the challenges faced by the young Startups, ranging from multiple taxation, multiple regulation, harassment of young innovators and others because all CEOs concerned are going to be part of the Council. Similarly, part of benefits derivable from the bill are seed funding access to tax holiday and soft loans.

‘‘The bill was discussed with the National Assembly on 17th April. I am hopeful that soon it will be approved. I am also confident that 90% of all the challenges confronting our young innovators are going to be addressed,’’ the Minister said.

On how to tackle unemployment in the country, the Minister said our major problem is not unemployment but unemployability of young graduates because the society places more priority to papers and certificates rather than skills and creativity.

And to tackle the scourge headlong, he said students must be encouraged to graduate without hands-on training that will make them potential job creators and not job seekers on graduation.
‘‘Today in the world, skills are more important than papers and certifications that are empty. It is because of this that some higher institutions in the developed countries and developing countries the priorities and preference are no more given to class of degrees, rather to innovative ideas. That will make students graduate as potential job employer and not employee.

‘‘That is the best way to manage unemployment and unemployable and job provider. Our challenge is not unemployment, rather unemployability, which is even more worrisome, particularly in situation we are inclined to theory rather than practice, where students graduate without hands-on training, except few that are naturally talented.

‘‘It is because of this that the administration has discovered that innovation and entrepreneurship are two critical prerequisites to developing an indigenous digital economy. No country can develop without prioritizing digital innovation on one hand digital entrepreneurship on the other.’’

He therefore challenged all the innovators to identify at least five real life challenges in Nigeria and find digital and innovative solutions to them before the 2023 edition of the celebration.
Earlier in his address, the Director General of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa over 800 innovators participated in last year’s edition in which five winners emerged and were rewarded with N2 million each with training and mentorship supports.

With the five finalists, he said different digital solutions have been developed at the National Centre for Artificial Intelligent and Robotics, ranging from SmartAgriculture solution, SmartAccounting, Health, education and SmartEnergy solutions.

With the feats so far recorded, he assured that the centre is promising to transform Nigeria into a leading economy in the nearest future.

Highlight of the celebration was the Innovation Pitch Competition in which five winners emerged and were presented with cheques worth N5.250m.

They include: GreenAI- a Waste to Wealth solution – Ist position; FuelIntelliSense-First runners-up; Bridging Space -3rd position; Fascinate Technologies – 4th position and XCME- Smart Walking Stick – 5th position.

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