Following the recent tour of Technology Innovation Hubs in Lagos embarked on by the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has pledged its determination to engage relevant agencies to reduce entry barriers in order to allow start-Ups bid and win government contracts.
According to the Director General/CEO of NITDA, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the move is part of the IT Projects Clearance function of NITDA, which has also become a veritable instrument to empower Start-ups in the country.
“The Committee has been gathering data to identify IT projects that can be reserved for the small-scale tech companies. Our goal is to engage the relevant Agencies to find a way to reduce the entry barrier for young people to bid and win government contracts in areas they have shown relative competence. Also, we have insisted on local content where such capacities exist,” he said.
He further disclosed that another initiative, which the agency is experimenting with, is to match Start-ups and Hubs with successful winners of its project bids. This, he said has proven successful in some of its programmes and projects as the young innovators bring agility and fresh-thinking to the process while getting experience and finance. “We would ensure this programme continues and grows to become a model for implementing IT and other projects in Nigeria,” Dr. Pantami promised.
It would be recalled that the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gave a steering speech at the 2016 e-Nigeria International Conference and Exhibition, emphasising the point that the President Buhari’s administration was set to reset Nigeria’s economic architecture by diversifying from oil dependency and leveraging on ICT as a critical contributor to the economy. At that time, some people felt it was the usual talk by political leaders, without any intention to bring the vision to fruition. But events have come to prove that real change is happening in the way government is engaging with Tech. In 2017, Mr President himself attended the e-Nigeria International Conference and Exhibition to give his scorecard on support for the Information Technology sector and his plans for its further development.
It was therefore not a surprise that His Excellency the Vice President (VP) embarked on a tour of the Innovation Hubs in Lagos in company of the Director General of NITDA and the Honourable Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonaya Onu. Although NITDA through its Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE) had embarked on a similar trip in November 2017, having to accompany the VP according to Dr. Pantami was something special.
According to the NITDA CEO, the purpose of the visit was to gain first-hand knowledge of the innovation ecosystem. “This was not a regular official function, it was not a time of talking and lecturing the citizens about what government has done or not done; it was a time to LISTEN. Indeed we listened to our young, vibrant, passionate and highly motivated youths. They demonstrated to us that the best of Nigeria is yet to be unveiled. It was a tour that gave hope to all. The young people saw in the government team, a breath of fresh thinking. They did not see the grand-standing and disruptiveness that such a visit would have caused in the past. They remained at their work, coding, some were eating some were taking selfies with the VP. It was such a joy to see the glee on everyone that day,” Dr. Pantami observed.
Recounting some of the stories told at the hubs, NITDA’s boss said: “We listened to the Paystack story, how Shola and Ezra began a quiet revolution in payments processing back in 2014. Paystack has now become one of the most efficient payment processors in the country. Many did not pay attention to Andela until Mark Zuckerberg announced an investment in the Startup. Andela set out to solve the problem of top-class IT skills gap in Africa and the world. Andela recruits interns after a rigorous process in which less than 1% of over 70,000 scale through. The interns then go through a six-month intensive bootcamp that sharpens them to become world-class. The energy, intelligence and zeal of the over 500 strong office of young people in T-shirts and Jeans is enthralling. Sulyman, the VP Global Operations, gave the visitors an expose on the business model, opportunities and challenges of Andela.
“Flutterwave is sited in a bunker-like structure. This company was founded by a team of ex-bankers, entrepreneurs and engineers. In less than two years of its founding this payment gateway has processed transactions valued over $2 billion and has over 45,000 merchants. Time would fail me to talk about Autogenius, Carido, Asoko Insight, Branch. These are startups that provide solutions ranging from auto-mechanics, micro insurance, micro loans, corporate intelligence etc. Indeed the Nigerian genius is unleashed and we at NITDA are paying close attention.
We visited 6 places and listened to 14 Startups tell us what they do. FarmCrowdy solves the problem of under-utilized arable farm lands, help farmers access capital, help people invest in agriculture without owning a farm and everybody gets a share of the profit. That is amazing indeed. At Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF) operated by Access Bank Plc., we saw an organisation getting itself ready for the new face of banking and finance. The final stop was at Co-Creation Hub, Yaba. This pioneering beehive of innovation is not resting on its oars. Cc-Hub is giving Nigeria its first home-grown cyber-security platform called Safe-Online. In the same place we met Re-Learn, a Startup that is working to transform difficult educational concepts into funny cartoons. We spoke with the Managing Partner of Growth Capital, Tunji Eleso who told us how they are helping fund innovations of Nigerians by Nigerian investors.
“Indeed, the creative zeal and passion of the Nigerian youth has caught the attention of the world and President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is paying close attention and giving the necessary support without disrupting the disruptors,” the NITDA boss concluded.