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Nigeria commits $618m for digital skills, job creation

By , Africa editor
i-DICE masterminds: Nigeria vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (R) and Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, AfDB president.
i-DICE masterminds: Nigeria vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (R) and Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, AfDB president.

After nearly five years in the making, Nigeria has unveiled a $618 million investment programme, to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the digital, technology and creative industries targeted at job creation.

Nigeria vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who presided over the launch of the Investment in Digital and Creative Enterprises (I-DICE) programme, revealed the project culminated from his conversation with Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, president of African Development Bank (AfDB), in South Africa five years ago.

Osinbajo said: “What you may not have been told is the incredible effort that Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, President of AfDB put into this to make it happen. The thinking came from a discussion he and I had in 2018 on how to leverage technology and industry for jobs for young people. He told me at the time that the AfDB was already thinking along the lines of committing some funding to some iteration of the idea.”

Fast-forward to Tuesday, the i-DICE programme was unveiled, aimed at upscaling entrepreneurship and innovation in digital technologies and creative industries.

“The fruit of that discussion and the hard work of many is what we witness here today. The fund as we were told is $618 million, out of which the AfDB provides $170 million, the Agence Française de Développement provides $100 million and the Islamic Development Bank will provide $70 million in co-financing,” said Osinbajo.

“The Bank of Industry, representing the federal government, will provide $45 million as a counterpart contribution, to be availed through loans for qualifying start-ups. And as we heard from the President of AfDB, we expect, by leveraging this fund, another maybe $271 million from the private sector and institutional investors.”

The I-DICE programme is anticipated to help to fill critical gaps in Nigeria by supporting enterprise and skills development, access to demand-driven digital and creative skills, entrepreneurship skills, ICT enabled infrastructure, as well as access to finance.

Turning point

Adesina said the I-DICE programme is set to be ‘a real game changer’ in Nigeria.

“It will help to create 6.1 million direct and indirect jobs and equip more than 175 000 young people with the technology and creative skills needed to drive innovation and foster entrepreneurship.

“To start with, I-DICE will support 451 digital technology start-ups, 226 creative enterprises and 75 enterprise support organisations. The benefits of the programme to Nigeria’s economy are projected to be worth $6.4 billion,” he said.

“Yes, we gather to launch the initiative, but what we are really launching is more than this. We are launching hope for the youth. We are launching platforms that will enhance the ability and capacity of Nigeria’s youth to thrive. We are launching the creation of millions of jobs.

“We are retooling Nigeria to be more competitive in an increasingly digital world. We are creating hope for a new Nigeria, driven by the power of the youth.”

Adesina said the size of Africa’s digital economy will rise from $115 billion today to $712 billion by 2050, hence the need to prepare young people.

“Most of this growth is already being driven by four countries, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt,” he said.

“We are already witnessing in Nigeria the power of digital technologies, tools and platforms. Nigeria currently has five out of the 11 digital companies that have reached the status of unicorn, with a market valuation exceeding $1 billion. Names that come to mind include Jumia, Interswitch, Opay, Flutterwave and Andela, mainly in the fintech space.”

Further, Adesina said the AfDB is ‘making great strides’ in empowering youth on the continent.

From 2016 to 2021, he said, the ADB supported the creation of over 12 million jobs, 3.1 million of which were direct and nine million indirect.

He explained: “This has been made possible through our high employment impact operations and special initiatives in key sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, energy, and financial sectors, as well as in the digital and creative industries.

“Additionally, the Bank’s Coding for Employment programme has provided onsite centres and digital training platforms that have equipped 23 200 youth from 45 countries with the skills needed to succeed in the digital job market.

“We have invested $2 billion in 37 tech projects to improve national and regional broadband infrastructure, foster private investment, and support digital enterprises.”

Looking ahead, Adesina said: “The African Development Bank is currently designing and will soon roll out youth entrepreneurship investment banks, new financial institutions that will build robust financial ecosystems around the businesses of young people across Africa.”

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