The Digital Nigeria Conference, spearheaded by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), kicked off its 2023 edition in Abuja on Tuesday. The focus of the event’s opening day was primarily on how Nigeria can leverage emerging technologies for further advancement. Keynote speeches and panel discussions revolved around strategies for Nigeria to enhance its growth through these technologies.
Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, in his address, referred to the conference as “a celebration of progress.” He highlighted Nigeria’s achievements in building a digital economy and its recognition as Africa’s premier destination for technology investments. Tijani’s speech centered on commemorating Nigeria’s accomplishments in establishing its digital presence and economy.
Tijani acknowledged the considerable work yet to be accomplished in the telecommunications sector but also pointed out that this sector is currently the top earner in Africa. He said, “Nigeria now stands as the leading recipient of tech startup funding in Africa. Last year, approximately $5 billion was channeled into tech startups across the continent, and Nigeria secured 20% of this funding. This is a mere preview of the potential that exists,” he remarked. He credited this advancement to “progressives,” defining them as individuals committed to integrating Nigeria into the global economic scene.
During her main speech, Funke Opeke, CEO of Main One — a firm specializing in connectivity and data center services throughout Nigeria — advised the government to adopt a protectionist approach to bolster Nigeria’s private sector. Drawing comparisons with how various nations have safeguarded specific industries, Opeke emphasized the need for the government to establish a structure that assists Nigerian startups to thrive amid international competition.
Safeguarding national security and ensuring economic stability in our digitally-driven age necessitates a focus on local technology domiciliation. The hosting of vital databases, including those containing Nigerian voter details and government financial records, in foreign locations poses significant risks to our nation. The current scenario, where an excessive amount of our proprietary data, expertise, and startup economy is being transferred overseas, is concerning. We must increase our efforts to maintain this data within our borders,” she emphasized.
The focus of the first day revolved around Nigeria’s potential in harnessing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain to advance further the progress highlighted by the Honourable Minister in his speech. During the event, various speakers highlighted how Nigeria and its burgeoning startups could leverage these emerging technologies to revolutionize and introduce innovation into key Nigerian industries.
In an engaging fireside chat session, Kola Aina, the managing partner of Ventures Platform, a prominent Nigerian venture capital firm, offered valuable advice to emerging tech startups. He emphasized the importance of these startups identifying and addressing pertinent challenges specific to the African continent. Aina cautioned against the tendency of some startups to superficially apply emerging technologies merely for the sake of appearance rather than genuinely addressing the needs of Nigeria’s market. His message underscored the significance of creating solutions that align with the real needs of the Nigerian populace rather than using technology as a mere facade for excitement.
During another panel session, Oswald Osaretin Guobadia, a former government technology advisor and the managing partner of DigitA, highlighted the government’s failure to implement specific policies aimed at enhancing the adoption of emerging technologies. He specifically cited the Nigeria Startup Act, which had not been fully rolled out nationwide, and emphasized that more robust enforcement measures could significantly boost Nigeria’s burgeoning technology sector.