Nigeria bets on digital economy as Pantami lays block for new National Digital Innovation, Entrepreneurship Centre

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The Nigerian government this week in Abuja strengthened its push for a digital economy as Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, lays the building block for a new National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre at the heart of the country’s administrative capital.

Pantami, often touted as Nigeria’s promoter in chief of digital economy, expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for supporting the project for which official approval was given in November 2020 after a detailed presentation to the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the country’s highest decision-making organ.  

“Our journey towards the development of Nigeria’s digital economy commenced with Mr. President’s approval of our request to redesignate the Ministry of Communications as the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

“Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship are globally recognized as two prerequisites for achieving an indigenous Digital Economy. As such, a successful digital innovation and entrepreneurship programme will support us in the development of our digital economy and this is exactly what this centre aims to achieve,” said Pantami during the groundbreaking ceremony.

According to the minister, part of the goals of the centre include: enable Nigerians acquire cutting-edge technological skills; empower Nigerians in the development of hardware, software and emerging technologies; create an innovative ecosystem; and provide a unique platform for technical skills (programming), soft skills (social interaction), entrepreneurship (starting & operating a business) as well as the promotion of smart energy solutions to drive ICT.

Others are to nurture new ideas and develop an inquisitive perspective to support in the creation of employers of labour; support the development of ICTs including advanced applied research; and allow startups to accelerate and experience innovations at scale, through customized visits, design thinking sessions, and co-innovation workshops to create a highly collaborative and immersive environment.

“The groundbreaking ceremony of the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre is another giant leap towards the development of our digital economy and diversification of our country’s economy. The Centre will be based on the ‘live, work and learn’ concept. The activities of the centre align with 6 out of the 8 pillars of our National Digital Economy Policy for a Digital Nigeria. These include Pillar #2 (Digital Skills), Pillar #4 (Service Infrastructure), Pillar #5 (Digital Services Development and Promotion), Pillar #6 (Soft Infrastructure), Pillar #7 (Digital Society and Emerging Technologies) and Pillar #8 (Indigenous Content Development and Adoption).

“We are also developing National Policy on Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which this Centre and many other centres all over the country will implement,” said Pantami

He added: “Our National Digital Economy Policy appreciates the importance of identifying and supporting Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs) and it also focuses on encouraging many of these SMEs to go a step further by aiming to become Innovation Driven Enterprises (IDEs).

“The IDE-concept has been promoted by leading institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and these enterprises, no doubt, have great advantages. In contrasting IDEs and MSMEs we find that IDEs tend to have a global outlook while SMEs tend to start small and choose to remain local.

“I currently lead an Abuja Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT-REAP) to accelerate the development of home-grown IDEs in Nigeria.

“We are adopting MIT’s proven frameworks on accelerating innovation to create localized strategies for developing and sustaining enterprises driven by innovation. That same IDE-approach will be utilized in this Centre.”

Nigeria remains committed to building a digital economy through promotion of innovative ideas and development of capacities in its huge population of young people, said Pantami while commending the Director General of National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi for his commitment to implementing the National Digital Economy Policy.

His words: “NITDA’s role towards the digital innovation and entrepreneurship initiative is pivotal. I urge you to keep supporting the growth of the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem of the country.”

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