Prof. Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy on Friday urged Nigerian Startups to keep being innovative towards standing a chance of excelling on the global stage.
Mr Pantami made the call when he officially received two Nigerian Start-ups that were among the winners at the LEAP Rocket Fuel pitch competition which took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Nigeria’s participation, facilitated by the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, happened because the nation is a member of the Digital Corporation Organisation, DCO.
DCO is a global multilateral body that aims at enabling digital prosperity for all by accelerating inclusive growth of the digital economy.
The start-ups were RiceAfrika Technologies, a tech-driven agriculture optimisation service provider and Wicrypt, a start-up innovation that enables for sharing of the internet to people anywhere.
Mr Pantami commended the start-ups, saying that their efforts promote the image of Nigeria at the global stage.
“This is supposed to be the beginning, not the end, we need to have many of you that will emerge because Nigeria is so passionate about innovation.
“You are job providers, not seekers because the challenge of unemployment, and underemployment can only be addressed by promoting our digital innovation and digital entrepreneurship.
“We are more interested in supporting job providers and if there is anything the government can do to support you to be successful, we are always ready.
“We hope that in the next few years, you will be in the top class globally, don’t narrow your thinking only to Nigeria, think big where your innovation will be beneficial globally,’’ he said.
Mr Pantami added that the Federal Government would continue to make efforts to provide the enabling environment for innovators and start-ups to continue to amplify the positive image of the country.
“Recently, we initiated the Nigeria Start-up Act which is among the most important legislations we have in Nigeria particularly when it comes to addressing the challenges confronted by our innovators.
“Also, after my visit to the US SpaceX, a few days later Nigeria happened to be the first country to have StarLink.
“As as of today, Starlink covers the entire landmass of Nigeria approximately 920,000 square kilometres.
“These are some of the things that will drive the sector and the ecosystem to be successful,” Mr Pantami said.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for approving Nigeria to be part of the DCO and also the DCO for totally supporting 16 Nigerians’ participation in the competition.
According to him, Nigeria will actively promote the activities of the DCO and support the organisation for global success.
Kashifu Inuwa, Director-General of NITDA recalled that 12 start-ups were listed from the country to participate in the LEAP 2023 pitch competition with over 10,000 applications.
Mr Inuwa said that the DCO shortlisted about 220 and eight were selected, while the DCO funded two persons from each start-up amounting to 16 persons.
He said: “In the first round, 90 were selected to participate at the semi-final, all eight start-ups from Nigeria were among the 90 start-ups.
“Out of the 90, 12 qualified for the finals, while three are from Nigeria, the Wicrypt, the RiceAfrika and Scholar Limited and two became winners out of the six categories, Nigeria took two categories.’’
Ibrahim Maigari, Chief Executive Officer of RiceAfrika said it was an honour to represent Nigeria at the global stage.
Mr Maigari said that the winning was a validation that their business model and engagements were replicable and exportable.
“It goes a long way to tell other innovators that the impossible does not exist, it is an inspiration that Nigeria’s policy is trickling down into the ecosystem,” he said.
Ugochukwu Aronu, Founder of Wicrypt said their winning was for every start-up making efforts to change the narrative in the technology ecosystem.
Mr Aronu commended the government and asked for more support in ensuring that young innovators blossomed.
The highlights of the meeting were issuing of the Federal Government’s commendation letters to the winners.
The winners were given $150,000 each in Saudi Arabia for winning and the event held from Feb. 1 to 3.