Buhari Inaugurates 14-man National Council to Implement Nigeria Startup Act 2022

* Assures tech-savvy Nigerians of funds, tax reliefs

* Nigeria produces four out of seven unicorns in Africa valued at $7.5bn 

* ICT revenue generation increased from $51bn in 2019 to $408bn in 2022, says Pantami

Deji Elumoye in Abuja 

President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated a 14-member National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the mandate to guide the implementation of the Nigeria Startup Act (NSA) 2022.

Speaking on Wednesday at the inauguration of the council chaired by him, the president directed the Secretariat, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), to ensure the faithful implementation of the Act, which provides incentives and support for start-ups, including tax breaks and access to funding.

The inauguration at the Council Chambers of the State House, Abuja preceded the Federal Executive Council (FEC) weekly meeting and had members of the Digital Innovation Council in attendance.

Other members of the council include the vice-president as vice-chairman, Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, who shall preside over the council in the absence of the chairman and vice-chairman.

Other members are the Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Industry, Trade and Investment; Science, Technology and Innovation; Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), four representatives of the startups consultative forum and one representative each from the Nigerian Computer Society, and the Computer Registration Council of Nigeria and the Director General of the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) as Secretary of the council. 

The president noted that Nigeria has been at the forefront of the remarkable growth of startups in Africa, with Nigerian start-ups raising over $4 billion between 2019 and 2022.

According to him, ‘‘It is worth noting the remarkable growth of start-ups worldwide, with over $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 $5.4 billion in funding.”

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, Prof. 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,’’ he 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.

Buhari 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 his Chief of Staff, Prof. 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.

He said: ‘‘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.”

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.

Earlier in his remarks, Pantami said the inauguration of the council will support the administration to consolidate the gains and achievements recorded so far in the digital economy sector.

He recalled that the administration has set three unprecedented records with regards to ICT contribution to the GDP. 

He noted that in the first quarter of 2020, ICT alone without digital services, contributed 14.07 per cent to the nation’s GDP and in the second quarter of 2021, ICT alone without digital services contributed 17.92 per cent, while in the second quarter of 2022, the sector also contributed 18.44 per cent to the nation’s GDP, describing the feat as unprecedented. 

He said: “Year in year out, this administration has been setting a new world record when it comes to ICT contribution to the GDP.”

Pantami said a recent evaluation conducted by OSGF, FCDO and KPMG, indicated that the current administration under Buhari has increased revenue generation in the ICT sector from $51 billion in 2019 to $408 billion in 2022, an increase of 594 per cent. 

“This is commendable and I believe this will consolidate the achievements and the gains we have recorded so far,” he said.

The minister also recalled that the engagement of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to provide broadband access across Nigeria last year December, resulted in a partnership agreement being signed.

According to him, “Today in Nigeria, we can safely say with our landmass of 590 kilometres approximately, you will get access to Star-links services in every part of this country. 

“Furthermore, in Africa, as at February 2023, we had seven unicorn companies. Unicorn is a company with a valuation of over $1 billion. We have seven unicorn companies in Africa from 53 countries, four of those unicorns originated from Nigeria. All these four unicorns from Nigeria attained this position during this administration. The first was in 2019, the second , third and fourth attained thus position in 2021.

“If computed, 57.14 per cent of African unicorns originated from Nigeria, while the market value of seven of them combined as at February 2023, was $11.45 billion and the four from Nigeria contributed $7.4 billion of the total amount. So percentagewise, we can safely say 55.21 per cent unicorns originated from Nigeria with a contribution of 65.21 per cent to the entire unicorns of Africa. This is a clear indication and a success story of the contribution of this administration.

“I want to congratulate you, Mr President and this administration on this giant stride and I believe this council to be inaugurated that brought together government officials, academics, industry players among others will go a long way in consolidating the achievements we have recorded so far.”

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