Blinken Backs Nigerian Entrepreneurs, Commissions American Corner in Lagos

Blinken Backs Nigerian Entrepreneurs, Commissions American Corner in Lagos

•Minister says Nigeria to become next destination for tech talents

Chiemelie Ezeobi

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, yesterday reiterated the support of his government in its quest to elevate Nigeria’s youth innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity.

Blinken made this known when he officially opened the “American Corner”, a creative and tech-enabled American space at 21st Century Technologies in Lekki, Lagos, which aims to foster entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity among Nigeria youths.

Since 2000, the US has launched 245 American Corners in approximately 60 countries with 26 American Spaces in Nigeria in 21 cities throughout the country.

Blinken, who was on his second day in Nigeria, was joined by other US government representatives at the space, including the United States Chargé d’Affaires, David Greene and Consul General in Lagos, Will Stevens, as well as the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani.

According to him, the American Corner is poised to contribute significantly to the advancement of technology and creativity among Nigerian youth, aligning with the broader goals of strengthening diplomatic ties between the United States and Nigeria.

He further noted that the initiative was part of the Biden administration’s strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa, signifying a commitment to supporting Nigerian youth in the fields of technology and innovation.

Emphasising the United States’ determination to remain a strong security partner for Nigeria, he so said the strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa’s objective is to drive digital transformation and stimulate an inclusive digital ecosystem.

While commending Wale Adebola, the CEO of 21st Century Technologies, for pioneering Nigeria’s technology space, he also expressed gratitude to Tijani for the partnership between both countries in making Nigeria a tech powerhouse.

He said: “Back in November of 2021, I had an opportunity to come to Nigeria and to talk about building a 21st century partnership, a 21st century partnership with Africa countries, and to move from those questions about what we can do for Africa to a different question, what can we do with Africa.

 “I see this playing out in so many places now as we work together to meet shared challenges that no single one of us can effectively meet alone, and the bottom line, to actually deliver results to our people, because those of us who have spent some period of time in public office, that’s our responsibility.  That’s what we’ve been charged with.

“A lot goes into that: Promoting accountable government, strengthening security and stability, and especially expanding opportunity, which I think is at the heart of everything.

“Now, as we’re doing that, two things are evident.  One is the future really is with Africa.  It’s no secret to anyone that in the coming years one in four inhabitants of the planet will be from this continent, and so we would ignore Africa at our peril.  But we also see the incredible power of these partnerships in actually solving problems together.

“When we’re thinking about Africa, Nigeria has to be front and centre.  It’s the largest country.  It’s the largest economy.  It’s the largest democracy.  It is a natural partner for the United States.

“And as we’re looking at what we’re doing together – trying to address the climate crisis that’s affecting all of us in different ways, developing artificial intelligence for good, accelerating inclusive economic growth – all of that is strengthened powerfully by one thing, and that is the tens of thousands of Americans who are here in Nigeria working, studying, coming together with Nigerians around joint ventures, and the more than 500,000 Nigerian Americans who are such a powerful part of our own community.”

He said it was particularly exciting because he was sharing the space with one of the continent’s most innovative incubators, part of an American commitment to help drive digital transformation across Africa.

Blinken underscored the imperative of bringing women fully into the venture, stressing that women around the world were participating equally in the workforce with men, adding $28 trillion to the global economy.

Earlier, US Consul General,  Stevens said the American Corner is a network of spaces that brought together nearly 100,000 people last year and probably did more for diplomacy than anything.

“David (Greene) probably did a bit more – our charge d’affaires.  But that people-to-people diplomacy is the foundation, it’s the bedrock of a warm and strong relationship that our countries enjoy.  And this Corner today is one more step in the path that we’ve taken to help unleash Nigeria’s incredible talent.

“So I know that Secretary Blinken has a longstanding commitment to that people-to-people diplomacy.  He’s shown it in his years as Deputy Secretary of State, at the National Security Council, and now as Secretary of State, and he is a true leader and we’re so grateful to have you here,” he said.

Also speaking after the inauguration, Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, who lauded the centre, said Nigeria is also investing in talent to become the next destination for technology.

He said: “We are also investing in talent. We want Nigeria to become the next destination of technology talent in the world which is why we are training 3 million of such talents.

“This is because while we want to keep some of them, we also want to become the next exporter of such tech talents to the world.”

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