Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN on Tuesday launched a $600 million programme for young Nigerians in the technology and creative sectors with a call on African governments and the private sector to do more to support the growth of innovation in the continent.
Osinbajo spoke at the State House, Abuja at the presidential launch of the Investment in Digital and Creative Enterprises (i-DICE) Programme which will support young Nigerians ranging from ages 15 to 35 who are entrepreneurs and involved in early stages in creative, innovative and technology-enabled ventures.
Delivering a keynote address at the event, the Vice President declared "I think it is now imperative to commence a coordinated approach towards innovation on the continent, bringing together all stakeholders to coordinate efforts at scaling up investments and building programmes that provide the right enabling environment and produce talent pipelines that support the growth of innovation on the continent".
Under i-DICE, constraints such as access to capital, and capacity limitation of Start-ups would be effectively addressed.
But according to Osinbajo, more needs to be done to scale up such programmes.
Hos words, "the government must provide more support for startups and small businesses, and investors must provide more funding. This is why the Investment in Digital and Creative Enterprises Programme is important."
i-DICE is supported by funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB)-$170m, the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB)-N70m and the Agence Française de Développement-$116m. There is also Federal Government of Nigeria counterpart contribution of $45 million through the Bank of Industry loans for qualifying start-ups.
Speaking on behalf of the Nigerian government, the Vice President thanked the development partners for their collaboration.
Also commending the efforts of the development partners, Osinbajo noted that the programme's design "supports innovation across very critical pillars including policy, infrastructure, access to finance and talent. These pillars have been identified as very critical to the growth and sustenance of innovation on the continent."
He disclosed that the total fund is $618 million, out of which the AFDB provides $170million, the Agence Francaise de development $116m and the Islamic Development Bank will provide $70 million in co-financing adding that another $271m is expected from private sector and institutional investors.
Osinbajo similarly observed that the launch of the (i-DICE) Programme was a significant milestone by the Nigerian government in its continued efforts in harnessing the potential of its youth population and creating more jobs.
Beyond job creation, he said the programme is a government initiative to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the digital tech and creative industries and especially targeted at job creation.
Speaking about the present administration's efforts in supporting the growth in the tech and innovation sectors, the Vice President noted that, "as a government, we have consistently provided support to the innovation ecosystem over the last 8 years. In 2018, we established the Technology and Creativity Advisory Group. The Advisory Group brings together stakeholders in the technology and creative industries, to contribute directly to policy formulation, articulation and the design of the technology and creative sectors of our economy.
"The Group has influenced various government policies for the growth of the economy. For instance, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, working with NITDA has established a Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, the Ministry has also led the coordination of our partnership with Microsoft to increase Nigeria's technology talent pipeline by training five million Nigerians in various technology skills".
Osinbajo also recalled how President Muhammadu Buhari signed Nigeria's Startup Bill into law, making it the Nigeria Startup Act and also highlighted the essence of collaboration between the private sector and government in scaling up such programmes.
He stated that there has been an influx of private capital which has enabled startups to expand operations and create new jobs while contributing significantly towards overall GDP growth of the country. There are of course thousands of startups that have used private funds or debt that goes unrecorded."
The Vice President referenced Disrupt Africa's 2022 Tech Funding Report which indicated that Nigeria was the best-funded country in Africa for the second year running, with a minimum of 180 startups, making up approximately 30% of Africa's funded ventures, raising approximately $1billion - substantially ahead of all other countries on the continent on both counts.
He commended development partners for their support, and also thanked the AfDB President, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, for his role in bringing the idea to fruition.
Also speaking, the President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina commended the Federal Government's commitment to the actualization of the initiative, particularly the leadership of the VP in creating the enabling environment for the development of start-ups, as well as position Nigeria as Africa's leading digital technology centre.
His words: "Today, I will thank you, my brother, the Vice President. You have been an amazing leader in our nation, you are a very focused and very determined person, as your time ends, may God continue to be with you and guide you in whatever lies ahead of you."
He added that the i-DICE Programme is "timely, strategic, and transformative as it will build the ecosystems to support more competitive entrepreneurs powered by digital technologies.
"That is why we like i-DICE: it is visionary, sees the future and prepares Nigeria for it. That future is here. Every aspect of life is being transformed digitally. "