FG: Support for Tech Startups, Key to Economic Devt

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Emma Okonji

The federal government has reiterated its commitment to support technology startups in developing apps that will drive economic.

A former acting Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Vincent Olatunji who gave the assurance in Lagos during the recent Startup Friday show organised to showcase up-coming startups before investors who are willing to invest in Nigerian startups, said there was need to support startups in order to grow several small businesses that would in turn create jobs and national wealth.

According to Olatunji, “Our gathering together at the StartUp Friday show in Lagos, is part of government’s efforts to support technology startups in the country. We are creating opportunity for them to network and to showcase their skills and solutions before investors that are interested in investing in Nigerian technology startups.”

He said government would continue to create the enabling environment that would boost Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) businesses, through right policy implementation.

Nigeria is currently in recession and the fastest way to come out of it is by creating opportunities that will support technology growth and development. We see that happening with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and that is government’s interest in supporting technology startups, Olatunji said.

We want to create several SMEs that will in turn, become employers of labour. Gone at the days when students will graduate from the universities and will be searching for paid employment. The new trend is to develop people technologically and make them ready employers of labour as soon as they graduate from the university, he added.

Addressing the issue of funding, Olatunji explained that the federal government would set up a national innovation fund where startups could draw funds from. He however said the only challenge that might come up is the sustainability of the fund. In developed countries of the world, the fund is jointly supported by government and the private sector and when startups become successful, they also contribute to the fund, to enable up-coming startups to also draw from it, Olatunji said.

Giving government’s position in sustaining startups, whose solutions may not be successful at the end of an incubation period, Olatunji reassured Nigerians that every solution cannot be successful at the end of the incubation period, but stressed the need for government to continue to invest in several startups with the hope that the few startups that will be successful, will make up for the money invested by government.

According to Olatunji, if government incubates about 100 startups, it is not likely that all will succeed. From experience, only few succeeds, and if we get 10 successful startups or even only one startup that becomes successful and grow into a global brand, then that one single success will compensate for the money spent on the other 99 startups.

“If we say the failure rate is high and decided not to invest in them, then we will not be making progress,”Olatunji explained.

He advised technology startups to be more focused and not to be derailed by environmental factors because the ICT sector in which they operate, is key to national and personal development.
Olatunji admitted the fact that Nigeria is a late starter in the technology space, but assured Nigerians that such development would turn out to be a blessing to Nigeria, because the country would be in a vantage position to leapfrog technology, since reinventing the wheels would no longer be necessary.