Iyinoluwa Aboyeji – a Nigerian entrepreneur and CEO of Future Africa – has enjoined the country’s tech ecosystem to develop an agenda for the incoming government. In a tweet, he said “Our ecosystem really needs to rally round and come together to properly set an agenda for the next government. If we fail to do this we are now at the point where our scale makes it impossible for us to hide. We will be targeted and destroyed.”
With the inauguration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu exactly one week away, Aboyeji’s call is not only timely but important. Tinubu secured the victory after polling over 8 million votes to defeat close rivals Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labor Party. Although the courts have been swarmed by petitions from both the PDP and LP, Tinubu’s swearing-in ceremony is still expected to happen as is the law.
The tech scene comprises the country’s brightest minds and innovators. Despite the many infrastructural deficits in Nigeria like low internet penetration, an overreliance on cash, and a seemingly impossible license approval process, startups have thrived and continue to spread the bug of hope nationwide.
The tech ecosystem can potentially transform Nigeria’s economy and help the West African nation turn its gaze away from its crude oil deposits. But then, just how much support has the tech field received in recent years? The outgoing Muhammadu Buhari administration can’t say that it has done well to positively impact the tech community. Perhaps that explains the urgency embedded in Aboyeji’s tweet.
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What agenda could the tech ecosystem set for Tinubu?
Admittedly, Tinubu – when inaugurated – has lots of campaign promises to fulfill. They range from increased electricity generation to securing critical national infrastructure. Regarding the digital economy where the tech network belongs, Tinubu’s 80-page manifesto pledges to leverage the fourth industrial revolution to bettering life for everyone.
One of the many agendas players in the tech ecosystem can ask Tinubu to focus on is improving the digital infrastructure in Nigeria. Increasing broadband penetration wouldn’t be a bad place to start, especially when the manifesto has a “Broadband by 25” promise and more businesses are depending on fast and reliable internet connectivity.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency may have lost the “hottest technology” tag to artificial intelligence this year, but both innovations have great advantages which Nigeria – through Tinubu – can key into for economic growth and digital transformation. Although a national blockchain program has recently been adopted, ensuring that it works as promised should be a major priority.
Another thing the tech community can ask for is that the controversial National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) bill be revised to eliminate the problematic parts. While the telcos have voiced their concerns over the potential duplication of regulatory functions, the bigger issue – perhaps – is the proposed levy on companies and enterprises within the digital economy. As mentioned, adequate support from the government should translate into fair policies and not regulations that seek to discourage growth.
There’s also the long-standing issue of police brutality which has affected many Nigerians, but could potentially stunt the digital economy’s growth if not properly addressed. There have been many stories of influential people recounting unpleasant police checkpoint experiences where hundreds of thousands of naira in bribes were demanded and their perception of Nigeria changed. If the country must tap into the potential of digital transformation, then the police should undergo sensitizations on how to deal with the youth population – a demography championing the tech revolution.
The problematic license approval process should also be reviewed to make it easier for startups to gain the right to operate. The fees charged for these licenses should also be revised to make it possible for more businesses to jump on the bandwagon.
The conversation around fuel subsidy removal has gone on for many years with many advantages and disadvantages outlined by many industry analysts. Removing subsidy means Nigerians will likely pay more per liter and, given the terrible state of the economy, this may adversely affect everyone, especially low-income earners. The nation’s minimum wage still stands at N33,000.
While the current government plans to help Nigerians cushion the effect of the subsidy removal through a N5,000 grant, perhaps Tinubu can do something that can benefit the country in the long term. Despite Nigeria’s status as a major oil producer, it may be time for the country to explore alternative ways of generating energy.
Solar energy infrastructure – though expensive to establish – may be just what the nation needs. Besides, the time for electric vehicles to coexist with internal combustion engine (ICE) cars is now. Other nations are leaning towards that direction so it makes sense that Tinubu does the same.
With Tinubu’s vow to improve the power generation situation comes the all-important question: how will he do this? Power, as seen in South Africa’s load-shedding crisis, is important for the growth of any country. If little is supplied, businesses will suffer and so will the economy. Investors will be afraid to support businesses including startups.
Aside from electricity generation, there are the longstanding issues of billing. While metering is preferred to the estimated billing system, issues like the difficulty in getting a prepaid meter to the high cost needed to “install” them exist. When inaugurated, the power sector deserves a major overhaul if things can go smoothly.
Nigeria is home to opportunity, but legacy problems like poor power supply and police brutality can have long-term negative effects. Aboyeji’s tweet should spur major players in the tech ecosystem to devise a full-fledged list for Tinubu’s consideration. The tech ecosystem has generated many jobs and contributed heavily to the nation’s revenue, so think of how better things could get if everyone worked together.
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