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'Nigeria in early stages of domestic tech revolution' says Buhari

'Nigeria in early stages of domestic tech revolution' says Buhari

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed positive sentiments about the value derived from digital businesses and investment for the country's economy in his address during the 2nd United States-Africa Business Forum currently taking place in New York.

The President told the gathering of government and private sector leaders from the US and Africa that Nigeria has adopted an open door policy for trade and investment in the country's growing digital sector.

"In the digital economy, which, like infrastructure, has a multiplier effect that touches every part of the economy, opportunities abound. We have welcomed and continue to welcome investors willing to take a stake in one of the world's largest and fastest growing telecoms markets – a market which has attracted more than US$35 billion in FDI over the last decade and half. The Nigerian Communications Commission will shortly commence a licensing process for the deployment of broadband infrastructure across metropolitan areas in the country," said Buhari.

Young Nigerians, he added, are increasingly demonstrating that they have the talent and the passion to leverage the digital economy for solving the country's most pressing challenges.

"We are seeing a lot of activity in that space, and not just in Lagos, but even in cities further afield, from Uyo to Abuja. There are currently 150 million active mobile phone lines in the country – sixty percent of which are connected to the Internet. I can confidently say that Nigeria is in the early stages of a domestic technology revolution, and the government is paying serious attention and offering its full support. Three weeks ago I hosted Mark Zuckerberg, the Founder and CEO of Facebook, which is now used regularly by 17 million Nigerians, more people than in any other country in Africa. A few months ago Mr. Zuckerberg invested US$24 million in Andela, a technology company that has Iyin Aboyeji, a 25-year-old Nigerian as one of its co-founders, and maintains its main campus in the city of Lagos. On the same day that Mr. Zuckerberg visited I also welcomed and interacted with 30 of the most exciting technology startups in the country; among whom lie tomorrow's billion-dollar corporations."

Business unease

Mark Walker, Associate Vice President, Sub-Saharan Africa - IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey, shares the President's view of digital economy with great potential across Nigeria - although he adds that the wave of digitisation is resulting in some unease for businesses in the country who are battling to keep up with the pressing need to adapt to digital technologies in order to access value-producing opportunities.

"There are worries especially in large organisations. They are worried about connectivity, reliability, they worry a lot about security, legal implications of where the data is stored because as they move from mobile onto data centre and then onto cloud they are not having the data in their data centre anymore and that is a big concern for many companies," said Walker.

"Those are unfounded in most cases but they are certainly the common themes. Then you get regional specific issues like in our Lagos office where we have discussions with a lot of electricity companies and distribution companies and they work in an environment where power is unreliable, the infrastructure in many cases is quite old and they have maintenance issues. They are overcoming these issues with smart metering and as that technology continues to roll out, many are noting an improvement in their service as result of customer feedback."

Walker identifies digitalisation as a trend sweeping the entire region and not just Nigeria at an alarming rate. "Digitisation is a reality. It is a reality, not just in South Africa which is traditionally more sophisticated and more developed than the rest of Africa, but we are seeing from IDC research offices in Lagos, Kenya, Casablanca and Cairo that while each market is different, the one common theme is that digitisation is here and digital transformation is happening. The third platform as IDC calls it which consists of four technologies - cloud, mobile, big data/social analytics and social business - working together is fundamentally changing the business environment from the banking sector right through to manufacturing, through to retail. IDC forecasters analyse future trends in the region and what we expected to happen in five years is happening in 18 months. The pace is very fast and increasing..."

President Buhari also revealed that the digital economy has been included as a priority investment sector for his administration along with infrastructure, industry, agriculture, and mining.

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