The National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has listed Nigeria among the top three countries in Africa attracting largest volume of investments from venture capitalists for technology startups and hubs.
The Director-General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, in an interview, said interestingly, Nigeria occupied the first position with a total investment of $747 million, followed by Kenya with $564 million, and Egypt attracted $211 million in 2019.
Abdullahi said to consolidate these efforts, the Agency has embarked on a series of initiatives aimed at providing a conducive environment and support for the Start-up Ecosystem.
These include the NITDA Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support Scheme, targeting startups hub owners and youth with talent and building their skills in high-demand skills; and policies such as tax incentives for startups, incentives for investors and access to market for innovation adoption.
Others are the establishment of Innovation and Research Fund to further catalyse the growth of startups; development of an Innovation Portal to monitor the activities of the ecosystem; and FinTech software, which are already being exported.
He said the Innovation Fund will reduce risk and attract FDI; and the establishment of the Tech4COVID19 Initiative, to measure the impact of COVID-19 on the tech ecosystem and proffer solutions especially for startups.
According to him, the committee set up to look into how to sustain development, has initiated a strategic plan to ensure the country retains about 100,000 ICT jobs, and create an additional 30,000 in the post-COVID-19 era.
Speaking on exporting software and attracting foreign exchange on the long term, the NITDA DG said Nigeria has come a long way from being a net importer of software into a significant hub for the development of talent for software development in Africa.
According to him, this is evident from the value of investments that come into Nigeria’s startup ecosystem due to the successes of mostly software-powered applications developed by incredibly smart Nigerians.He said this can be seen in the growth and capacities harnessed in the country’s technology hubs, mostly around Lagos and Abuja.
Abdulai noted that there are numerous software houses churning out software to support banking, commerce and government processes in Nigeria.
“This is a testament to the ingenuity of Nigerians developing software to almost sufficiently meet local needs. However, we must strive to become net exporters of software by developing our model to produce more software engineers and find suitable markets for these talents.
“One way is to prepare to take advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which provides the opportunities for Africa to improve inter-Africa trade generally and trade in services particularly,” he stated. He added that Nigerian software will benefit immensely from an improved atmosphere in trade-in services, which is important, considering that the country already has all the ingredients needed to succeed.
He disclosed that there is also the need to continue to incentivize software developers through lower taxes, subsidized development of talent and to create a pipeline of jobs that can be offered locally.
“This will lead to the development of proprietary solutions that can be standardized and sold as services to other countries in Africa or the rest of the world for significant foreign exchange. Our initiative – the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support Scheme is one of the initiatives we have towards talent development,” he added.