Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami

Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami has disclosed that the government will leverage on Information Communications Technology and Entrepreneurship to increase job creation for the youth.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami disclosed this in Abuja while inaugurating members of the Advisory Board of the Abuja Team for Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP), promoted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Dr. Pantami said the undertaking was inspired by the President Muhammadu Buhari led adminstration’s fight against Poverty and focus on Economic Development.

The Minister said, although the focus was officially in Abuja, the project would be replicated in all the states of the Federation.

“I must emphasize, at this point, that while the focus of this is officially Abuja, the aims of this project transcend the FCT; and this is being done for Nigeria as a whole. The learnings and principles applied through REAP, are transferable to any town, city, state or region of this dear nation of ours. And so it should be ,in 2018, after a period of evaluating options on programmes that could help deepen the emerging innovativeness that we had observed among our youth; and catalyst economic growth and impact therein, a team of US decided that the REAP programme offered by MIT offered the best proven example of such. In January 2019, we decided to make the application to MIT as Team Abuja.

Attesting to the importance that the world places on creating innovation driven ecosystems, and our aspiration to operate at global best standards,” he said.

According to him, the main purpose of the programme was to adopt, and adapt, MIT’s proven frameworks on accelerating innovation to create localized strategies for developing and sustaining enterprises driven by innovation (IDEs).

“The march towards a Digital Economy, which I currently oversee will depend on harnessing scaled innovation towards fulfilling the 8 pillars, which our national strategy is built upon. Although the programme emphasizes regional teams, the benefits from this undertaking invariably spread beyond local boundaries; which can only be good for Nigeria. This is not just about the use of ICT for its sake alone, but as a potential enabler for amazing things to happen everywhere, alongside other forms of technological research and development,” the Minister added.

Pantami noted that while a regular SME may employ 5 to 10 persons, a scaled-up IDE can make that number 50 or more hence the need to scale up drive in encouraging young people on skill development.

“Permit me to paint this picture for you: Like most of Africa, 60% of our population is under the age of 30. 28% is under-10. Put mildly, there are not enough “regular” jobs (in government or companies) for this population if things remain the same. Though we do have a good base of SME entrepreneurship, we need to play in the new economies for they are the drivers of future job growth. Furthermore, we are provided with an objective set of criteria that enable us to assess our capacities for Innovation and Entrepreneurship against global benchmarks. This is critical for our capacity building efforts to ensure that we, all stakeholders, identify where best to channel our resources for best impact.

“With the induction of Abuja into REAP, we seek to develop harmonized strategies and remove identified bottlenecks; in order to catalyze innovation and the business of innovativeness.

“We envisage that by implementing a sustainable approach to developing a strong pipeline of innovation, Abuja, and Nigeria, can become a formidable rival to other emergent innovation centres worldwide; in the process adding more dimensions to the economic diversification plans of government.

“Very importantly, if we do this right, local entrepreneurship will rise to a quality that attracts high levels of venture capital investment and solidifies our direct investment profile. Abuja is an attractive destination for FDI into Nigeria, and with this it can only improve further.

“You all, are visionaries in your own right. Apart from your accomplishments, you represent varied professional backgrounds and geographies. Thus, your perspectives on issues can offer critical assessments, new ideas and support for any necessary changes that we need to make in our systems for the long-term good. We are depending on your vision and experience, therefore, to help us focus better and drive wider support and advocacy for the principles we have,” he explained.

The Director General National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mr Kashifu Inuwa advocated for the adoption of digital technological skills in the educational sector was made one of the Co-Champions.

The committee is made up of twenty nine members drawn from the Academia, private and public sectors among them are the Minister for the FCT, the Executive Secretary Petroleum Equalization Fund and the DG NITDA, whose organisations shall spearhead the government stakeholder engagement. (VON)