By Nwakaego Alajemba, Anthony Nwosu
Investors and entrepreneurs in Nigerian technology sector say investment in the country’s ICT is still very attractive despite recession and other challenges.
The local investors spoke at the just ended Africa Investment Forum during the 36th edition of the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX 2016) in Dubai, UAE.
The Forum was headlined by theme-statements from the Deputy Governor of Plateau State, Professor Sonni Gwanle Tyoden, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami). The NITDA is country’s IT clearinghouse.
The Forum with more than 200 people from 40 countries in attendance was co-managed by the NITDA and the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), organisers of GITEX. It attracted speakers from Morocco, Tanzania, Egypt, Singapore and other countries.
“Systemspecs has proven that despite the challenges, Nigeria remains an investors’ delight. There are difficulties, probably more for indigenous investors. But the benefits are overwhelming even as we have reasons to believe that government is increasingly becoming aware of the need to create a more investment-friendly environment,” said Executive Director at SystemSpecs Limited, Mr. Deremi Atanda, while giving a testimonial on benefits of investing in Nigeria. SystemSpecs drives the Remita payment solution which has brought speed and transparency in public fund management in Nigeria.
For Mr. Collins Onuegbu, founder of Lagos based technology investment company that provides seed investment to early stage startups in the technology industry. Despite economic downturn and infrastructure challenges, “Nigeria still holds great attraction for technology investments and the sector is till at its infancy,” said Onuegbu who also is a top player at the Lagos Angel network (LAN), a network of investors set up to provide early stage investment to young startups in Nigeria.
In his theme speech, the country’s technology regulator, Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), said the agency was partnering with other stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria’s nascent startupsecosystem flourishes. NITDA has sight on investors seeking to explore the budding talents driving several innovations in hubs scattered around the country but majorly in Lagos.
“Our ICT innovations are not targeting local consumption alone but global consumers as seen in our startups. At NITDA we have created a special office known as the Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE) to spearhead ICT’s contribution to our GDP through ‘techpreneurs’ and ICT start-ups.
“You may also recall that Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, was in Nigeria two months ago to attend the Aso Villa Demo Day, an initiative by the Nigerian Presidency to identify and promote 30 start-ups with the brightest home-grown innovative solutions. Mr Zuckerberg admitted that he was “blown away” by the talent of young Nigerians. Many of his social media comments after the event have reflected this. We invite you, our potential investors, to take advantage of this massive talent as you invest in Nigeria,” said Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) at the Forum.
His words were echoed by Mr. Yele Okeremi, founder of Precise Financial Systems(PFS). At the PFS, Yele has driven his team to champion the development and deployment of local software applications driving the country’s financial sector. “We are a strong testimony to the robustness and efficiency of locally developed software for the finance industry. We have evolved in a market that is young, dynamic and very challenging,” said Okeremi.
Nigeria is committed to ensuring that investors have high returns on investments (RoIs) said Communication Minister Shittu. Aside government policy to woo investors, the huge population means a large market exist to snap up services and products. His words: “Nigeria has a population of about 180 million people, which is more than the total population of the remaining 15 nations in the West African sub –region. Our nation is a huge market and the centre of economic activities in the sub-region as well as ICT development in Africa. Major investors in the ICT sector should not miss these opportunities of mutual benefits which Nigeria presents.”
For the Deputy Governor of Plateau State, the Professor Sonni Gwanle Tyoden, Nigeria has several bright spots for investors both at federal and state levels. He said Plateau State was keen to welcome investors to its mining and hospitality sectors. Tyoden said the state would be happy to partner with companies willing to explore the huge population of talented young people coming out of higher educational institutions in the state yearly and who make ready skilled labour for IT industries.
“We invite investors in exploring the great potential in mining, the hospitality industry and huge market for innovation underscored by large numbers of educated and talented youth population” said Professor Tyoden.
Chairman and Co-founder of Sidmach Technologies Nigeria Limited, an aggregator that fund startups, Mr. Chijioke Eke, however, cautioned that government still needs to ensure stable policy thrust for long term investment projections. “What will drive continuity to ensure sustainable inflow of investment-capitals is stability of policy and commitment as tied to overall national ICT goals,” said Eke.
Sixteen Nigerian startups sponsored by the NITDA pitched at the Forum which drew support pitches from Japanese startups. The 16 Nigerian startups included: Logical Address, Zobreus, Rotors & Pilots, Wecyclers Nigeria Limited, Transforia, and Mobidoc. Others are Phinnx Genii Games, ArtNigeria, Astrosand, ChowHub, Jara Mobile, CloudBurst, Pinfoot, DIYlaw, and GoMyWay.
GITEX is considered as the largest technology event in the Middle East & Africa. Over 150,000 technology professionals, enterprise leaders, public sector officials and entrepreneurs from over 140 countries attend GITEX annually. The event has held for 36 years.