GITEX 2020 And Nigeria’s Steady March To A Sustainable Digital Economy

By Ismail A. Akanji

The Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) is a gathering of the top tier players in the global ICT economy. Every year, thousands of innovators and developers converge at the Dubai World Trade Centre to network, discuss and expose their work to the world. Government officials grace these events to woo investors to their countries and to advertise the many ICT geniuses they have in those countries.

Nigeria has never hid its desire to tap into the global digital economy market worth a monstrous $11.5 trillion equivalent to 15.5% of global GDP.

In achieving this ambition, the renaming of the Federal Ministry of Communications to Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy by President Muhammadu Buhari on October 23rd 2019 was actualized after the Minister, Dr Isa Ali Pantami made a request. This is enough proof. The Minister and his team immediately set to work by rolling out a holistic National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) launched by the President in November 2019. The Ministry, through the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has, in partnership with reputed firms, trained hundreds of thousands of Nigerians. A case in mind, eight months ago, collaborating with IBM Digital Nation Africa Program, young Nigerians were trained on emerging technologies like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and Computing.

Nigeria’s support for the ICT sector has never been in doubt. This is even more visible in how the government sponsored-startups to the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) annual event and last year was no exception, we expect the same this year.

Leading the delegation to GITEX 2020 was Dr Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Kashifu Inuwa, Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT), Galaxy Backbone, the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST), National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), National Automotive Design and Development Council, Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF) were all part of the delegation.

GITEX, is the prime event for global investors and innovators in technology, despite the drawback of COVID-19, the event hosted exhibition from 1,300 persons that include 300 start-ups from more than 60 countries.

Moreover, 10 promising start-ups were sponsored by the government to attend this event. The gains of this attendance are numerous; They interacted with innovators from technologically advanced countries like the United States, United Kingdom, France, Israel, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, Belgium, Brazil, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Poland and Romania, just to mention a few.

Nigeria’s standing as a technology-serious country is evident in the respect accorded to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ali Isa Pantami when the organisers praised him for “spearheading the trial and development of 5G in Africa.”

The DG NITDA while chronicling his achievements at the Africa Investment Forum, commented on the African Investment Forum as an annual forum to showcase Africa and its potential to the IT world, noting that “Africa has the youngest population in the world and it is projected that by 2050, one in three youth globally would be from Africa”.
He appealed to investors to see the country as a gateway to sub-saharan Africa, urging them to drop their monies in the sector. He opined, “Nigeria is both a geographic and an economic gateway to sub-Saharan Africa. As a geographic gateway, we have a prime location between West and Central Africa. In other words, investing in Nigeria gives investors easy access to close to 550 million people–200 million from Nigeria, another 200 million West Africans and about 150 million Central Africans.” What a pitch!

In the same vein, while speaking the Minister assured them “of access to a large pool of youthful and skillful employees at a more cost-effective rate than it would cost to engage employees in other parts of the world.”

Nigeria is working towards a sustainable Digital Economy and GITEX is serving as the perfect pathway. Nigerian start-ups are exposed to world-class standards, earning plaudits for their works and even possible collaborations. With the digital literacy and sustainable digital economy envisaged by the Minister and implemented by the NITDA’s Kashifu, the strategist – it may not be too far off the mark.

Akanji is a strategist and an ICT enthusiast, he writes from Abuja

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