FG Collaborating With Investors To Improve Digital Sector- Osinbajo

FG Collaborating With Investors To Improve Digital Sector- Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has restated the Federal Government’s determination to boost the nation’s technology sector and digital economy.

Prof. Osinbajo stated this on Friday during a fireside chat with Facebook’s Vice President on Global Affairs and Communications, former UK Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Nick Clegg.

The chat focused on the digital economic pillar of the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan, NESP.

This came as global Social Media and technology giant, Facebook informed the Federal Government about its decision to open a Nigerian office in Lagos.

Clegg and other Facebook officials, including Ebele Okobi, Head of Public Policy, Africa, had informed the Vice President about the decision to open its second African office in Lagos before the end of the year.

It would be recalled that a delegation of the Federal Government, led by Prof Osinbajo, including the Communications & Digital Economy Minister, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, had visited Silicon Valley in 2018 and one of the issues on the table then was how such global tech giants like Facebook could have full representation in the country, including a Nigerian office.

According to the Vice President, the focus of the Nigerian government on the digital sector is crucial in various socio-economic aspect of national life, from education, e-commerce, social investments programmes to the activities of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government.

He said, “The NESP is our response to the economic crisis caused by the (COVID-19) pandemic. Our focus on the digital sector is really because practically everything we are doing centres around expanding our reach in the digital sector.

“For example, financial inclusion is critical for us because we are spreading and extending our social services, payment of cash transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable and other manners of such payment; and sometimes to the farthest flung places in Nigeria. So, we certainly need to expand our reach in order to do so. Of course, technology is critical to that.”

The Vice President also noted that the Federal Government was collaborating with the private sector to fund, establish and expand e-learning and education platforms, and other areas of digital technology growth.

“Practically everything is now being done remotely. Earlier on today, I did a virtual commissioning of the MSME clinic in Lagos, sitting in my office in Abuja. So, for us, the digital space is very important, which is why the focus was on the digital economy in the Economic Sustainability Plan.”

“We are led by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, which is the ministry fully devoted to all of what we do in the digital space. We have NITDA, an agency responsible for Information technology (policy implementation); as well as the private sector.”

Recalling the trip to Silicon Valley and Facebook campus in the US in 2018, Prof Osinbajo stated that the tours helped to boost government’s digital drive, while leading to significant improvement in the country’s digital sector.

“The tours were extremely successful. In Silicon Valley, Nigerian start-ups got a chance to pitch their products to tech sector investors, that was very good. In fact, before we left Silicon Valley, one of our venture platforms was able to sign a deal worth about $10m with the Nigeria-US Council. Since then, we’ve seen tremendous activity post-trip. The visit helped in showing our seriousness about the technology sector, and also the entertainment industry. We held a few meetings also with the entertainment industry.

“As of 2018/19, we’ve gotten about $377m in investments in the tech sector. Although, it still scratches the surface if one considers the size of our economy and country. But there were very significant gains, and I’m very happy to do that. I think we’ve started off a series of interactions that have been very useful and we will continue to engage.”

On the issue of regulations to ensure smooth collaboration between government and the private sector, the Vice President stated that the Federal Government will continue to engage with the private sector to boost development of the tech and creative sector.

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