Presidential Launch Of The Investment In Digital And Creative Enterprises Programme: iDICE On 14/03/2023

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Video Transcript





What an exciting moment this is! After nearly 5 years of work with some of the most patriotic African and African institutions and several in the local technology and entertainment ecosystem, we arrive at the launch of the I-DICE programme, the Investment in Digital and Creative Enterprises Programme.


As you have all heard, the programme is a government initiative to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the digital, technology and creative industries and especially targeted at job creation.


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 around this came from a discussion he and I had in 2018, I think it was in South Africa, 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.


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


The Bank of Industry, BOI, representing the Federal Government, will provide $45million 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 $271million from the private sector and institutional investors.


I think it is important to mention that private capital has usually been ahead of government efforts. And I think the private sector ought to be commended for being so innovative especially here in Nigeria.


The last few years have seen a consistent rise in venture capital investments in Nigeria’s technology ecosystem in particular for example, I think it was Disrupt Africa’s 2022 Tech Funding Report, which says Nigeria was the best-funded country in Africa for the second year running, with a minimum of 180 start-ups, making up approximately 30% of Africa’s funded ventures, raising approximately $1billion – substantially ahead of all other countries on the continent on both counts.


This influx of private capital has enabled start-ups to expand operations and create new jobs while contributing significantly towards our own GDP growth. There are of course thousands of start-ups that have used private funds or debt that goes unrecorded. I think they probably constitute the majority in our country.


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.


But we must do more. The government must provide more support for start-ups and small businesses, and investors must provide more funding. This is why the Investment in Digital and Creative Enterprises Programme is important. It brings together the public sector, and our development partners, the African Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and French Development Agency to design a programme that supports innovation access across 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. As a government, we have sought to provide support to the innovation ecosystem over the last 8 years.


In 2018, we established the Technology and Creativity Advisory Group and 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.


As part of the work of the Advisory Group, which has the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Minister of Finance, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, and Minister of Information and Culture, as members, 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 5 million Nigerians in various technology skills.


Just last year October, the President signed Nigeria’s Start-up Bill into Law, making it the Nigeria Start-up Act, the Act now provides a legal and institutional framework for the development of start-ups in Nigeria, and provides an enabling environment for the growth of start-ups in the country.


One key area of government support is funding, venture capital funds to provide seed and early-stage funding to technology start-ups.


For example, the government set up the Nigeria Investment Growth Fund to provide funding and technical assistance to start-ups in the country. The Bank of Industry also has the N10billion Nollywood fund to support film production and we have recently upgraded and renovated the National Theatre in Lagos, positioning it to become Africa’s creative hub.


Similarly, as Chairman of the National Economic Council, I have engaged with the State Governments on the issues of expanding access to broadband infrastructure in Nigeria. Through these engagements, many State Governments have worked with us in various capacities, including by reducing and harmonizing the costs of provision and also the cost of right-of-way in their various States.


Just last week, as part of this continuing engagement, Osun State waived its right-of-way charges for fibre infrastructure in the State, joining a host of others States that have done the same or reduced their fees significantly. This would in the near future, bring down the cost of providing broadband infrastructure in individual States and increase access to broadband which is critical for the growth of a digital economy.


With regard to the creative industry, the Federal Government took action to include the sector among those that could benefit from the Government’s pioneer status.  Today any entertainment company can benefit from pioneer status, in other words, it has several tax breaks, and tax holidays for when they start their businesses and, of course, some of these incentives, especially fiscal incentives, can still be negotiated. Efforts are also underway to tackle piracy in terms of intellectual property and copyright and secure financial resources to support the sector and also enable the building of required infrastructural facilities.


The I-DICE Programme as we heard would be over sighted by the Bank of Industry and supported by our partners here today – African Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and French Development Agency.


Microsoft, as part of our partnership signed in 2020, has also committed to supporting the Programme with technical assistance, knowledge sharing and capacity building, particularly focusing on the talent pipeline.


Again, I’d like to thank Microsoft for being there for us practically all the time. I believe that over the tenure of this programme, we would see significant additional support and investments from other partners and stakeholders across sectors, leading to an increase in start-up investments, growth of new Unicorns, and training more talent on the continent.


Thank you all for listening.