President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday inaugurated the National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the mandate to guide the implementation of the Nigeria Startup Act (NSA) 2022.
Speaking at the inauguration of the 14-member Council chaired by him, the President directed the Secretariat, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), to ensure faithful implementation of the Act, which provides incentives and support for start-ups, including tax breaks and access to funding.
The inauguration preceded the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting and had members of the Digital Innovation Council in attendance.
The President noted that Nigeria has been at the forefront of the remarkable growth of startups in Africa, with Nigerian start-ups raising over US$4 billion between 2019 and 2022.
‘‘It is worth noting the remarkable growth of start-ups worldwide, with over US$400 Billion of venture funding accessed in 2022.
‘‘This growth was fuelled by a surge in demand for digital services as people worldwide turned to technology to stay connected, work remotely, and access essential goods and services largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘‘In Africa, the startup ecosystem has also been growing at a remarkable pace.
‘‘In 2022, African startups raised a record of US$5.4 Billion in funding,’’ he said.
President Buhari, therefore, charged members of the Council to harness the potential of Nigeria’s young and innovative population, who have demonstrated their ingenuity, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit in creating innovative solutions to the challenges of the nation and the continent.
‘‘With this inauguration, which serves as our first meeting, I hereby direct the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), to convene another meeting of the Council in May 2023 to make further progress on the implementation of the Act.
‘‘I congratulate the members of the National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship on their assignment and wish them a successful and productive engagement in harnessing our youth talents and uplifting our country’s economy to new heights,’’ the President said.
Describing the Startup Act 2022 as a testament to the vision and commitment of his administration to harness the potential of Nigeria’s young and innovative population, the President recalled that it was developed in collaboration with his office, the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, with the support of the Tech Ecosystem.
He explained that the Act, which became law after its approval by the Federal Executive Council on 15th December 2021 and the Presidential assent on 19th October, 2022, provides incentives and support for start-ups, such as tax breaks, access to funding, ease of doing business, intellectual property protection, and participation in public procurement.
He particularly commended the efforts of Pantami and the Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, for this achievement.
The President acknowledged that as Nigeria aims to become a global talent factory through the implementation of the Startup Act 2022, its startup ecosystem still faces significant challenges, such as access to funding, support infrastructure, and skilled talent.
‘‘These remain major barriers to the growth of the ecosystem, particularly for early-stage start-ups.
‘‘The provisions of the Nigeria Startup Act 2022 represent an important step towards addressing these challenges and promoting the growth of a more vibrant and inclusive startup ecosystem in Nigeria.
‘‘Furthermore, implementation of the Act will lead to consolidation and further development of the gains recorded by Nigeria’s digital economy, in the last four years, in the areas of contribution to GDP and increased revenue generation, among others,’’ he said.
President Buhari stressed that the Council would serve a critical governance structure in the implementation of the Act, which will ensure that government agencies, entrepreneurs, investors, and support organizations collaborate with the startup ecosystem to achieve the goals of promoting the growth of a vibrant and sustainable startup ecosystem.
‘‘I had earlier directed the Secretariat, the National Information Technology Development Agency to commence the execution of the implementation plan it developed.
‘‘One of the important aspects of the implementation plan is the development of the Startup Portal, which will serve as a platform that will drive the implementation of the NSA 2022 and collaboration between all stakeholders,’’ he said.
The members of the Council include the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Vice Chairman; the Minister responsible for Communications and Digital Economy, who will preside over the Council in the absence of the President and Vice President; the Minister responsible for Finance, Budget and National Planning; the Minister responsible for Industry, Trade and Investment; the Minister responsible for Science, Technology and Innovation and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Others are four representatives of the Start-up Consultative Forum, one representative of the Nigeria Computer Society, one representative of the Computer Professionals (Registration Council of Nigeria) and the Director-General, NITDA, who will serve as Secretary of the Council.
In his remarks, Pantami noted that it is widely accepted that digital innovation and digital entrepreneurship are the two prerequisites towards building an indigenous digital economy.
He said the inauguration of the Council would support the administration to consolidate the gains and achievements recorded in the digital economy sector.
‘‘This administration has set three unprecedented records when it comes to ICT contributions to GDP. For example in the first quarter of 2020, ICT alone contributed to 14.07 per cent to the country’s GDP.
‘‘In the second quarter of 2021, ICT alone, without digital services, contributed 17.92 per cent to GDP while in the second quarter of 2022, ICT contributed 18.44 per cent.
‘‘Annually, this administration has been setting new records when it comes to ICT contributions to GDP,’’ he said.
The Minister also used the occasion to apprise the Council that Nigeria’s broadband penetration is now 100 per cent with the deployment of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite Internet service.
Furthermore, Pantani said out of 7 unicorns in the continent, Nigeria now accounts for 4 unicorns worth over $1billion each.
‘‘All these unicorns in Nigeria attained this position during this administration. The first was in 2019, while the second, third and fourth attained this position in 2021.
‘‘57.14 per cent of the entire African unicorns originated from Nigeria while the market value of 7 of them combined as at February 2023 is $11.45billion, with the 4 from Nigeria contributing $7.5billion,’’ he said.