IHATCH: Utilising Nigeria’s Youthful Population Is A Task For The Japanese Government – Inuwa

The Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa has called on the Japanese government to take advantage of the youthful population through strategic talent partnerships that will nurture and build a workforce that can be exported. This call is part of President Bola Tinubu’s administration’s commitment to providing meaningful opportunities for Nigerian youths.

At the opening ceremony for the third cohort and demo day of the Ihatch startup incubation programme, which were hosted in Abuja by the agency’s subsidiary, Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI), in collaboration with Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA), the DG made the announcement.

According to Inuwa, the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) is home to the ONDI’s 5-month free intensive incubation programme, ihatch, which is intended to assist Nigerian tech entrepreneurs in honing their business concepts through a series of workshops, seminars, and booth camps. The program’s main objectives are to help entrepreneurs develop scalable and flexible business models that centre on youth, innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

He continued by saying that JICA has decided to extend the Fourth Cohort over all 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, adding that the incubation programme will take place concurrently in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Gombe, and Kano. Wider reach and the stimulation of startup ecosystems across the United States are the goals of this.

At least 1,218 applications were received for the Second Cohort, according to the DG. After going through a rigorous selection process led by a panel of judges made up of experts in a variety of technology and innovative entrepreneurship-related fields, the number of applications was reduced to 8 startups, each with 16 members, including a Founder and Co-Founder.

He clarified that a set of criteria, including profitability, scalability, social effect, idea technique, competitive advantage, experience, and a clear roadmap for the future, were used to evaluate the firms’ ideas throughout the selection process.

Inuwa further disclosed that 11,183 applications for the Third Cohort were received from all six geopolitical zones combined. As a result, the top 8 startups—which together include 16 founders—were chosen to take part in the recently announced Third Cohort.

A total of 179 direct jobs have been created in the agriculture, health, education, and e-commerce sectors by the 16 startups that took part in the first and second cohorts of the iHatch incubation programme, he continued. These startups have gone on to achieve remarkable success in the areas of job creation, funding, participation in events, and valuable partnerships.

Beyond the US$45,000 (US$15,000 per) grant for Proof of Concept (POC) given to the top 3 businesses in the first cohort, the DG also claimed that some of the startups have obtained additional funds from other sources. First cohort startups Xolani Health and BetaLife both received grants totalling US$155,000 and US$60,000, respectively, while second cohort startups Gifty and Xolani Health, which focused on e-commerce, received grants of USD$8,000 and USD$60,000, respectively. Two other startups from the first and second cohorts raised a total of US$6,000.

To successfully implement the Nigeria Startup Act (NSA), which would spur innovation and give our burgeoning youngsters much-needed employment, Inuwa reaffirmed the agency’s dedication to working with pertinent stakeholders and partners. We are steadfast in our mission to foster our youth’s entrepreneurial spirit and propel Nigeria’s digital economy forward, leaving nothing to chance.

With the help of Dr Femi Adeluyi, National Coordinator of the National Talent Export Programme, the Honourable Minister of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Doris Nkiruka Uzoka-Anite, was able to commend NITDA for the numerous projects and programmes that have been implemented to promote the nation’s tech ecosystem.

Anite observed that the NITDA DG repeatedly stressed the necessity for Nigeria to become the world’s talent destination, drawing in nations looking for labourers to assist them in accomplishing their aims and objectives during the 2023 edition of the Digital Nigeria International Conference.

She stated that “technology is a pivotal tool in all aspects of life which cannot be overemphasised and the green transition scoreboard global total has reached about $7.13 trillion for export and about $6.6 trillion for importation, the important aspect is that 54% of these activities is digitally edible and prepares people to be effective and efficient in the different sector of the economy is laudable”.

The Minister also expressed gratitude to JICA for its unwavering efforts to further the tech ecosystem in the fields of development, cars, training, scholarships, interventions, and much more, all of which have directly or indirectly benefited the populace.

In his remarks, Yuzurio Susumu, Chief of the Nigeria Office, on behalf of the Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Matsunaga Kazuyoshi, said that Nigeria is the most popular nation in Africa and the centre of entrepreneurial activity targeted at the country’s progress.

He continued, “With all the challenges faced by insecurity, and limited infrastructures in the country, Nigerian startups are demonstrating remarkable creativity and resilience in developing solutions that other critical social issues in areas such as education, transportation, healthcare and finance”.

He continued by saying that the current government has recognised the potential for startups and digitization to revolutionise society, making it a crucial component in reducing Nigeria’s reliance on oil.

The Ambassador made the point that startups are thought of as a force for innovation in business, bringing with them new concepts, cutting-edge tools, and job possibilities. Japan is the country with the longest history of technological invention, and its entrepreneurship greatly contributes to the Nigerian system’s upkeep.

Both public and private sector leaders attended, and the top three (3) startups were awarded cash prizes: Fundus AI took first place with $15,000, Reno came in second with $12,000, and Ilim Tutors placed third with $10,000.