Collaborative, Innovative Enterprises as Nigeria’s New Normal

By Inyene Ibanga

TECHDIGEST – Innovation is the engine of economic growth and the transformation of society. It helps society advance, evolve, and improve the way people live and do things.

Innovation delivers economic growth, increased well-being and communication, educational accessibility, and environmental sustainability among others to any environment. Because innovation engenders improvement, no society can thrive without constantly upgrading or re-imagining an existing system.

It is globally known that innovation brings an economic uplift. The annual Global Innovation Index (GII) published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), ranks economically developed countries and emerging ones as those countries with the highest capacity for and success in innovation. This means there is a link between a country’s economic growth and development and its capacity for and performance of innovation.

Having recognized this reality, the Nigerian government has embarked on several actions to empower the citizens, especially the teeming youths, in ways that enable them to harness their creativity and innovative potential. The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), a national regulator and developer of the Information Technology (IT) sector, is leading the crusade for the digital transformation of Nigeria’s economy. The Agency relentlessly promotes skills acquisition and development of capacity as key to innovating progressively and profitably.

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Buoyed by the support of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, NITDA has continued to design and execute programs to advance the tech innovation ecosystem in Nigeria. In conformity with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), the Agency has implemented initiatives and programmes through its Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2021–2024).

Thus, it facilitated the creation of an enabling environment to help indigenous talents transform their ideas into innovative solutions, products, and services to advance the tech innovation and entrepreneurship sectors.

Through its subsidiaries – the Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI) and the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) – the Agency has been implementing programmes in collaboration with like-minded local and international organizations.

ONDI’s mandate areas include implementing innovation policies and guidelines; strategic human capacity development; catalyzing funding and ecosystem support; research and insight; monitoring and compliance; and Partnerships. Each focus area aligns with the seven pillars of the NITDA-SRAP 2021 – 2024 document.

In September, ONDI organized the Demo Day to mark the completion of Cohort 1 of the iHatch (Idea Hatch) Startup Incubation programme in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). SolutionMed; e-Dokta; Authentic QRTech; EveryFarmer; XTID Network; Afrinet Powertech; BetaLife; and Xolani Health emerged as the finalists after five weeks of intensive training on business idea refinement by tested ecosystem players and lecturers.

The eight finalists in Cohort 1 used the occasion to pitch their business ideas/solutions to the public and also interacted with ecosystem stakeholders who graced the event. After the pitch deck before a panel of expert judges, Xolani Health, Every Farmer, and BetaLife were awarded a prize of $15,000 each after clinching the first, second, and third positions, respectively.

The Director-General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa, is optimistic that the programme would assist Nigeria’s youths with the entrepreneurial skills and resources to launch more innovation-driven enterprises (IDEs) for the growth of the digital economy.

“Let me express our appreciation to the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), for facilitating this partnership between the Japanese and Nigerian governments and making it become a reality for increasing the number of Innovation-Driven Enterprises (IDEs) by Nigerian youths, and serving as one of the sustainable pillars to position Nigeria as a leading entrepreneurial hub in Africa. It is noteworthy that we have agreed with our partners, JICA, to extend the third cohort across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. This will be done at the end of the Second Cohort, five months from now”.

Accordingly, the ONDI has commenced implementation of Cohort 2 of the programme with eight startups nominated, from over 1163 initial applications, after a rigorous selection process. They are Gifty Shop (E-Commerce); Information Database (GovTech); MetaAfrica (Fintech); Fundus AI (HealthTech); Reno (Healthtech); Agrovesto Enterprises (Agritech); Farmie (AgriTech); and TopCity Agrihub (AgriTech).

These startups are currently undergoing a free intensive incubation programme organized and executed by ONDI within the premises of NCAIR for the next five months. The startups will receive free offline/online interactive lectures with experienced mentors, free workspace, and mentorship meetings with tech professionals on pitch deck enhancement and networking opportunities. They will go through a series of coaching, lectures, and bootcamps to generate adaptable company models to refine their business ideas into market-ready products and services.

Indeed, this programme further consolidates NITDA’s commitment to sustaining the promotion and growth of Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a pillar in its SRAP document. It is also creating the enabling framework for the profitable adoption of home-grown innovation to accelerate the progress of our digital economy.

From all indications, NITDA has consistently transformed the frontiers of profitable engagement with relevant stakeholders and partners in implementing programmes and initiatives that will accelerate innovation and provide much-needed jobs for our teeming youths.

At this juncture, one hopes that the Agency will continue to support and empower its subsidiaries to deliver on their mandate of nurturing the entrepreneurial zeal of citizens while also catalyzing Nigeria’s digital economy to greater heights of prosperity.

Inyene Ibanga is with the Corporate & Communications Desk, Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI).

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