Northern Innovation: Kashifu Inuwa Restates Agency’s Promise To Expand Area’s Technology Sector

NITDA’s Director-General, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, has reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to support and catalyse the emergence and growth of the region’s innovation ecosystem in light of the relatively low visibility of the ecosystem in Northern Nigeria, despite the region being a hub of innovators, creatives, startups, and several success stories.

‘Stakeholders’ Engagement on the State of the Northern Innovation Ecosystem’ was held in Abuja, and Inuwa made this statement while giving a keynote address.

The Director-General described the occasion as “‘creating the sense of urgency for something to be done in favour of the Northern Innovation Ecosystem,'” adding that the timely call accentuates the opportunities, challenges, and requirements for forming strategic alliances to accomplish the overall goals.

“This platform has spurred the necessary conversations that we need to have to tackle some of the bottlenecks that have over the years stifled the growth of the ecosystem in the region”.

“As an Agency under the Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, we are here to add our collective voice and render relevant support targeted at fostering economic growth and development in the North and Nigeria as a whole”, Inuwa affirmed.

“Accelerating Diversification through Industrialization, Digitization, Creative Arts, Manufacturing, and Innovation” is one of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Priority Areas. The DG aligned the discussions’ main points with this agenda.

Among other things, the DG states that “Nurturing an Innovative and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem” and “Forging Strategic Partnerships and Collaboration,” two of the Agency’s strategic road map and action plan’s pillars, are further aligned with NITDA’s search involvement.

Inuwa expressed the expectation that the Northern Innovation Ecosystem will be used to address issues in the region’s healthcare, education, transportation, agriculture, and many other areas in addition to creating jobs.

DG NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, flanked by other Stakeholders during a Group Photograph, after Engagement on the State of Northern Innovation Ecosystem.

“In the North and Nigeria in general, our biggest opportunity is the large market and expansion we have, because we have a young population where more than 60% is under 25, which means they are digital natives”.

“Given the fact that our greatest resource as a country is human capital, we therefore, want to harness this population to make Nigeria a talent net exporter”, the DG avowed.

The NITDA Boss who took time to explain the Strategic Blueprint (five Pillars) of the Ministry and of course the Agency’s eight Pillars of the SRAP document, and how they directly address some of the issues raised, urged for the need to co-create and co-design the solutions with the ecosystem, to build trust between the ecosystem and the government.

“We want them to know that the government is here to handhold and support them in terms of interventions, building the talents, and infrastructures in unserved and underserved communities, as well as providing the incentives for them to grow”, Inuwa assured.

Inuwa however challenged Northerners not to allow the identified challenges in the area to hinder their innovative ideas, as there are silver linings in each difficulty.

“Lack of funding is always one of the issues, yes, but we can start with the small we have. It is not enough to always mention the challenges, let us also look for innovative ways to tackle them”, Inuwa urged.

Inuwa informed the audience that the Agency is conceptualising the idea of establishing Technology Development Zones, one in each geopolitical zone of the country, adding that there are plans to also have an average innovation hub in every state of the federation.

“To sustain and deal with the recurring challenge of monopoly of the hubs by some facilities in Universities, we are trying to come up with a framework where we can build innovation hubs outside of Universities, then sign an M.O.U with the ecosystem to bring in anyone willing to manage the facility, we will give the person targets and KPIs to aid the management of such hubs”.

“It is an idea we are trying to conceptualise and we are open to co-designing it with the ecosystem, so anybody interested can reach out to us so that we can figure out how to achieve that”, the Director-General said.

Head of Experimentation, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Jamila Mohammed, while speaking on the essence of the meeting, maintained that the whole idea around having the conversation with the stakeholders for the northern innovation ecosystem is to begin to engage key players in the innovation space to come together and help in positioning the ecosystem, to address developmental challenges in the region.

“The essence of all this is to galvanise action to catalyse action, to be able to disrupt the way innovation is done in the region itself”.

“There is a need for us to pull all our resources together to be able to position the resource system to accelerate the SDGs because we know we are far behind in achieving Sustainable Development Goals and there is that urgency to be able to come up with new methodologies, and solutions that will take us to that promised land”, Ms. Jamila noted.

Speaking one at a time, other stakeholders all agreed that the Northern Ecosystem Working Group (NEW-G), which was founded in partnership with UNDP, continues to be a crucial hub for fostering and accelerating the emergence of the Northern Ecosystem through targeted levelling-up initiatives.