Director General, NITDA, Mal. Kashifu Inuwa Abdullah
Director General, NITDA, Mal. Kashifu Inuwa Abdullah

Engaging with the startups policy for innovative enterprises
By Inyene Ibanga

TECH DIGEST – Today, the ever-evolving digital technology is opening up limitless opportunities for innovation-driven enterprises to adopt new business models, ideas, and processes that are equally enabled by new technological innovations. Business leaders have incorporated these innovative features and capabilities into their business strategies.

Countries achieve economic stability when companies and jobs are delivering high value products and services in all sectors. They suffer an economic downturn once those companies/businesses are no longer able to contribute high-value products or services to drive the national economy.
Innovation driven entrepreneurship is highly needed to speed up economic recovery, as the world adjusts to the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. This implies that any economy that desires to fix the damage caused by the global health crisis must walk the path of innovation-driven entrepreneurship.
Innovation driven enterprises (IDEs) are businesses that bring innovations to the market by helping to deliver high-value products or services that customers are willing to pay for. IDEs are better positioned to stimulate the expansion of the digital economy.

Beyond just creating startups, advanced digital economies are giving priority to the creation of more innovation-driven enterprises. These enterprises have been recognised as catalysts for economic growth, due to their potentials to create jobs, boost production, and increase prosperity.

Innovation-driven enterprises can focus on a wide range of areas, such as design innovation, market innovation, and technology innovation to increase the value of products and service delivery to customers within and outside their immediate geographic locations.
Although most of them are based in urban centres, innovation-driven enterprises are bringing solutions and added value to products and services in agriculture, education, health, transportation, banking and finance, trade and commerce, just to name a few.

Andela, Flutterwave, Paystack, Uber, Bolt, 54Gene, Konga, Myclinic, Gradely, PrepClass, ThriveAgric, and FarmCrowdy are some of the top innovation-driven enterprises in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, an estimated 41.5 million small businesses have created about 84 per cent of the jobs, while also contributing about 48 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

There are indications that the Federal Government is looking in the direction of nurturing more innovation driven enterprises (IDEs) startups, as part of the effort to achieve the digital Nigeria project.

Consequently, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), with the approval of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, presented the Nigeria Digital Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Startups Policy (NDIESP) to the tech industry stakeholders.

The NDIESP is aimed at achieving a digital innovation and entrepreneurship driven nation that would become a leading player in digital technology through the five priority areas of Advancing Human Capital, Unlocking Access to Capital, Enabling Infrastructure, Boosting Demand, and Promoting Innovative Entrepreneurship.
It is expected that the NDIESP, based on digital innovation and entrepreneurship, would help fast-track the recovery of all sectors of the economy by supporting the discovery and adoption of indigenous solutions for domestic problems.

Essentially, the objectives of the policy include supporting the development and growth of a sustainable digital innovation ecosystem; promoting innovation and entrepreneurship by harnessing the creative capacity of Nigerians for economic and social development; and leveraging digital innovation and entrepreneurship for job creation and youth empowerment.

It will also promote research, indigenous content development and adoption, while protecting the intellectual property of indigenous innovators; and increasing investment opportunities in innovation, to make technology entrepreneurship an enabler for all sectors of the nation’s economy.

The NDIESP applies to relevant stakeholders in the tech ecosystem, such as government institutions, innovation-driven enterprises, consumers of innovation, technology startups, innovation hubs and labs, investors, academia, funding agencies, civil society organisations, service providers, among others.

Under the policy, companies would be encouraged to use automation, smart processes, and ICT solutions to produce new innovative products and services that would result in more wealth and prosperity across sectors of the economy.
As such, the NDIESP encourages stakeholders to devise various innovative approaches for the successful transformation of Nigeria’s digital economy and to position the country to actively participate in the global digital economy.

While presenting the NDIESP to stakeholders, the Director-General of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa noted that the policy has the potential to boost economic diversification, and solicited the collaborative effort of stakeholders to ensure positive outcomes.

Represented by Dr Usman Gambo Abdullahi, the agency’s Director of IT Infrastructure Solutions, Kashifu urged that more attention should also be paid to the curricular that are being used to teach in schools, so as to ensure they are relevant to the digital economy.

“We are all aware that there is no innovation where new knowledge does not exist. The most innovative countries in the world that control the market share of the $11.5 trillion global digital economies are the countries with immense public and private sectors that are funding research and development. We must commit to accelerating our research and development; beginning with our intellectual property environment and solving the underlying problems of funding for innovation research.

“Even as we put all these in place, we must also commit to promoting digital entrepreneurship amongst our youth by all means necessary. We must also put in place the framework that boosts demand for digital products in the economy through government patronage by procurement of these digital innovation products”, he added.

As it stands, the success of Nigeria Digital Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Startups Policy would be determined largely by the level of coordination and implementation, as well as proactive engagement between the public institutions and stakeholders from different segments of the digital technology ecosystem.

Hopefully, this policy should effectively address issues of funding, taxation, protection for indigenous tech enterprises, breaches of local content regulations, the use of indigenous innovative solutions in automation of public sector services for an efficient, transparent, and prosperous digital economy.

Inyene Ibanga is Managing Editor and writes from Wuye District, Abuja.