One of the cardinal objectives which Nigerian delegation pursued tenaciously at this year’s edition of the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) Technology Week held at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) in Dubai was exploring avenue for showcasing the ingenuity of Nigerian tech startups sponsored to the event by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
At least, 10 startups from Nigeria also mounted the stage at during the tech startup pitch programme by the organisers of GITEX and at any available opportunities to explain the uniqueness of their technological innovations to visitors, exhibitors, and potential investors.
The Nigerian tech start-ups had the opportunity to compete with their peers from over 60 countries for global attention to their solutions from global investment community at an event believed to be a global rallying ground for funding startups and exposing innovators to mentors and venture capitalists. They all participated at the second edition of the Startups Global Movement, which was launched last year at the annual Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) in Dubai.
Nigeria government, through NITDA, promoted the 10 startups at this year’s edition of the GITEX technology expo and conference holding in Dubai from October 8-12. The country’s tech-ambassadors were carefully selected after a highly-competitive process anchored by the Office for ICT Innovation & Entrepreneurship (OIIE), which is an arm of the NITDA.
The 10 start-ups including Nicademia, SIX, Tattara, Accounteer, Beat Drone, Cloudoria, Dropque, MyPadi, Ward Monitor and MTK E-Learning made an impressive representation for Nigeria both at the main pitch event for startups and at the African Investment Forum, organised by NITDA in collaboration with the Dubai World Trade Centre.
GITEX is the premier annual technology event in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa hosting over 185, 000 visitors from more than 140 countries and this year’s edition of the African Investment Forum, formerly known as Nigerian Investment Forum, had the theme: ‘Re-Imagining Realities -Discover Transform Innovate.”
Abundance of young techno-prenuers
Speaking at the African Investment Forum, where the 10 startups had a close-up opportunity to pitch their solutions to a large gathering of investors, who attended the investment forum, the Acting National Coordinator of the Office of IT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE), Dr. Amina Sambo, said Nigeria has abundance of young tech-savvy apps developers.
According to her, the Office was set up by NITDA to develop and nurture the Nigerian youths and direct their energies towards building technology startup ecosystem in Nigeria.
“We have a lot of technology innovations coming out of Nigeria. The few we presented at this event are just a tip of the iceberg, as we have hundreds of them back home with investable ideas. We believe that Idea rules the world and that is why NITDA has mandated us to fish out these guys who are developing wonderful applications and solutions that address critical human problems, not in Nigeria or African but solutions that can be applied to the human problem anywhere in the world,” she said.
Calling for investment in startups
Also speaking at the investment forum, NITDA’s Director General, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, said OIIE had hunted talents and supported promising Nigerian startups in the ICT towards developing the ecosystem.
Pantami, who was addressing an audience potential investors, said, “The activities of the OIIE have enabled the ICT startup innovation ecosystem in Nigeria to grow at a remarkable pace. One of our startups- Genie Games- won the 2nd position at the keenly contested Startup Movement Competition at GITEX 2016.”
According to him, “Many Nigerian startups have also won plaudits from home and abroad. For example, HopStop, an online city transit App acquired by Apple for a whopping $1 billion, was owned by a Nigerian-born Entrepreneur. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, visited Nigeria last year and had very complimentary things to say about the quality of ICT talent in the country. His foundation also provided $24 million funding for Andella, a Nigerian company focused on building World-Class Software Development Teams.
“Konga.com, a Nigerian e-commerce company, attracted over $65 million funding in 2014. Also, out of a record-breaking total of $366.8 million raised by African startups in 2016, investments in Nigerian startups had the largest share of $109.4 million.
“These investment stories underscore the viability of the Nigerian startups and the capacity of Nigerians to conceive ingenious ideas. We invite you, our potential investors, to take advantage of this massive talent pool as you invest in Nigeria.”
Aside the foregoing, both the Managing Director of Galaxy Backbone, Mr. Kazaure and Chief Executive Officers of Nigeria Communications Satellite (NigComSat) Limited, Ms Abimbola Alale, who also spoke at the investment forum to an excited audience of investors, majority of whom subsequently expressed interest to come to Nigeria to invest, said there is abundant infrastructure in Nigeria even as they stressed that their investment will also be needed in such area as telecoms infrastructure (InfraCos) segment to help deepen the he huge bandwidth capacity lying largely untapped in Nigeria.
Focal point of IT local content development
Pantami said young people are a critical focus of NITDA’s agenda to develop the IT sector. “Our young people are highly talented. With more training, exposure, funding, and mentorship, a thriving IT industry can be encouraged to grow within international standards so that we can not only meet our local needs but also become an IT exporting nation,” said Pantami.
Also speaking, President, Nigerian Computer Society (NCS), Prof. Adesola Aderounmu, explained whether investors are coming to Nigeria to invest in the startups, who showcased their solutions or are coming to establish their own companies, “Nigerian government requires investors to think of how they can domesticate their IT products and services by striving to open manufacturing assembly or physical office in the country.
“We have humongous human talent in Nigeria and the kind of investment we need is from those who are willing to support our startups’ ecosystem or, on their own, build manufacturing plants in the country. We are tired of importation especially when you could manufacturing all of your IT products in Nigeria,” he said.
Improvement in ease of doing business
Meanwhile, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Information and Communications Technology, Mr. Lanre Osibona, who moderated panel discussions at the investment forum, added that government has been working towards ensuring that the ease of doing business in Nigeria is enhanced in for existing and potential investors.
In his submission, Pantami told investors to consider Nigeria a worthwhile investment haven for IT business and where they can source a lot of component for localising their technologies, stressing that “we need companies that will think globally and act locally.”
He explained to them that there was an enabling environment created by the Buhari administration’s Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PBEC), for businesses to thrive in Nigeria.
He explained particularly clear all the misconceptions about doing business in Nigeria especially in the area of security of life and property, stressing the problem of insecurity has been fought significantly and that investors have been having safe business operations contrary to false information on the Internet.
According to him, aside from the opportunity for Visa on arrival for foreign nationals coming to Nigeria to invest, there are other incentives such as tax holidays, among others for investors.
Pantami further unveiled the huge untapped market and the growth potential in the Nigeria’s ICT market, buttressing his positions with relevant statistics.
According to him, ICT sector currently contributed 11.27 percent to the total nominal GDP in the 2nd Quarter of 2017, stressing that while they are guaranteed better returns on investment, Nigeria will also benefit by boosting its gross domestic product (GDP) contribution from IT through such investment.
While offering the investors insight into the potentials of the Nigerian economy, Pantami said towards increasing the broadband penetration in Nigeria to 30 percent by 2018, the country has developed a comprehensive National Broadband Plan (NBP).
“We see a good potential for growth in the sector and we are creating an environment that can significantly increase the sector’s contribution to the nation’s GDP. As such, this is a good time to invest in our ICT sector and we invite you to partner with us in this season of growth,” he said.
From legislative perspectives, the duo of House Committee Chairman on Information Technology, Mr. Onawo Ogoshi and Senate Committee Chairman on ICT and Cybersecurity, Mr. Abdul-Fatai Buhari, said the Nigerian government, through the two legislative chambers, has been creating an enabling legal environments to ensure higher returns on investment (RoI) through a number of legislation with a view to guaranteeing fewer risks on investments.
No doubt, Nigeria is a country with huge human and material resources but which has remained largely untapped all along. But analysts are of the view that given the quality of exposure which NITDA provided for the 10 startups and subsequently interests being expressed by investors in some of the startups, deliberate efforts should be made by NITDA, through OIIE, to follow up on investors, who have indicated interest in some of the startups.