Assessing President Tinubu’s Year 1 performance in tech: too many promises, too few impact

Analysing Tinubu's plan to curb inflation as Nigeria hits 18-year high of 24.08%
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu

In a 2023 pre-election deep dive, we dissected President Bola Tinubu’s hefty 80-page policy manifesto and couldn’t help but think: on paper, the man seemed to have his act together.

In the spirited opening gambit of the section dubbed “The Digital Economy: Taking Advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, Tinubu’s manifesto gracefully nods to the pivotal role of digital technologies and innovations in propelling economic prosperity and national advancement. It cheekily dubs young Nigerians as “the leading pioneers exploring this exciting, fertile new economic frontier.”

What has happened one year after taking the reins of office? 

The promised 1 million jobs in ICT in 24 months

During his inauguration on May 29, 2024, President Tinubu made a bold proclamation: his administration would conjure up one million digital jobs for the economy in just two years. 

According to the manifesto, he would pull that off through “interventions in the ICT Industry and other critical sectors of the Nigerian economy where the deployment of new technologies can fast-track business growth and diversification.”

A year has gone, and while we’re all for a touch of magic, the next 12 months will be the real test to see if this grand feat can materialise. Let’s hope there’s more to this plan than just a wave of a wand. But, what has happened? 

On May 28, 2024, the National Centre for Technology Management (NACETEM) Director-General, Olushola Odusanya, said the NACETEM Academy plans to train one million workforce on various skills relevant to the nation’s socio-economic development through its academy. 

To bridge this deficit (lack of skilled ICT workforce), NACETEM, in collaboration with Comits Nig. Ltd., applied and became a Certiport training centre,” he said. 

But, that’s for civil servants, not the “leading pioneers” of the tech frontier. 

The Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, earlier this year, announced the commencement and selection of 270,000 Fellows for Cohort 2 of the 3MTT (three million technical talent) initiative, which was initially launched in November 2023. 

The minister said the ministry was engaging with partners to support fellows who may start tech-focused businesses after their training. 

Bosun Tijani says over 1 million applicants for FG's 3MTT program to undergo AI course

Tijani also disclosed that a significant number of fellows in Cohort 1 were being placed into jobs as interns all over the country, but he did not give a number. 

What about the talk on ICT-enabled outsourcing? 

In March, President Tinubu gave the green light for the creation of a ₦20 trillion Infrastructure Development Fund (IDF), making dreams of nationwide infrastructure upgrades a reality. 

In the realm of the digital economy, the agenda embraced digital technologies as the shiny new chariots of economic development, zooming us into the future of global growth.

Some of these digital products and services include ICT-enabled outsourcing, innovation and entrepreneurship, e-commerce, tech manufacturing, government digital services, Broadband by 2025, and Blockchain. 

Excerpt from the infrastructure fund on tech reform, signed by the president states: “ICT-enabled outsourcing offers the broad seat opportunity to bring new jobs to Nigeria and productively engage young Nigerians in the evolving digital global economy.”

There are no updates beyond the creation of the fund. 

But, according to the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), President Tinubu’s first year in office has significantly influenced the tech sector and established Nigeria as a global hub for talent.

Kashifu Inuwa: Three years of changing the fate ICT in Nigeria through NITDA

To corroborate, the founder and CEO of Nucamp, Ludo Fourrage in an April 2024 article wrote that Lagos is an appealing tech talent hub. 

Lagos is seriously stepping up its game when it comes to tech education.”

He is referring to the existence of hubs like Andela and CcHub.

Recall that Nigeria has 36 states. And, since Nigeria is a data-less space, we cannot independently verify Inuwa’s comments. 

Tinubu on innovation and entrepreneurship

To support innovation and entrepreneurship in the tech ecosystem, Tinubu’s manifesto proposed a plan to “develop and implement innovative policies to support local funding opportunities and access to capital for startups and encourage foreign investors to continue investing in Nigeria.” 

“Other drivers of value within the startup ecosystem, such as technology hubs and parks, accelerators, and angel investors will be incentivised to continue the development of a healthy ecosystem,” it added.

One year later, on May 27, 2024 (Children’s Day), President Tinubu said his administration would establish 24 skills and innovation hubs and entrepreneurship centres nationwide.

The key word is that the government “will do”: “Will”. “Will”. 

Earlier, in November 2023, President Tinubu inaugurated the ₦1 billion Abdul Samad Rabiu International Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Maiduguri. 

President Tinubu inaugurates ₦1 billion Abdul Samad Rabiu International Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Maiduguri. 

The facility which was built and equipped by the chairman of Bua Group, Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu, has various units including an artisan and handcraft laboratory, woodwork laboratory, fabrication machine laboratory, graphic and digital media laboratory, digital and virtual manufacturing; coding and application developing laboratory among others. 

What else do we know? 

In December 2023, President Tinubu reiterated his commitment to creating an environment that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation. 

In the same month, the president said the country’s socioeconomic challenges present an opportunity for his administration to embrace innovation that would grow the economy.

These challenges may seem daunting, but they also present opportunities for innovation and growth. 

Countries and organisations that invest in education, research, and innovation are more likely to succeed in the global market; we must continue to invest in education and research to ensure that our graduates remain competitive in a fast-changing world.”

That’s where that ended.

Is the president interested in e-commerce and tech manufacturing?

President Tinubu promised that his government would “focus on infrastructure and transportation, which will benefit the growth and development of the e-commerce industry”.

In line with this (though somewhat unrelated to what is in the manifesto), the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI) on May 22, 2024, organised a training for stakeholders in the e-commerce ecosystem – to fully harness the potential of the National e-Commerce Strategy (NeCS). 

The Permanent Secretary, Nura Rimi, said the NeCS would help Nigeria create and ensure sustainable market access. 

Permanent Secretary, Nura Rimi shaking hands with President Bola Tinubu (IMG: Wikipedia)
Permanent Secretary, Nura Rimi shaking hands with President Bola Tinubu (IMG: Wikipedia)

He added that by nurturing entrepreneurship and fostering innovation, e-commerce empowers individuals to unleash their creative prowess and seize the myriad of opportunities presented by the digital economy. 

By embracing digital platforms and innovative technologies, Nigerian entrepreneurs and enterprises can transcend geographical constraints and unlock untold avenues of prosperity,” Rimi said. 

Nigerians have now begun to ask that the NeCS goes beyond “will and commitment”

For tech manufacturing, no concrete plan was stated other than the massive opportunity for job creation, import substitution, and local assembly presented by the sector.

What about digitising government services? 

In 2019, the Federal Government launched the ‘Nigeria e-Government Master Plan 2020’ to improve the efficiency of service delivery in the Nigerian Public Service.

In line with this plan, President Tinubu said his government “will prioritise implementation of government digital services not only to improve the efficiency and functioning of government but also to encourage private sector job creation through the provision of development and support services to government agencies.”

So, in January 2024, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) officially launched an online application portal for international passports to streamline and simplify the passport application process for Nigerians within and outside the country. The passports are available in two categories for Nigerian and diaspora applicants.

So far, that is the bit of the masterplan that has come to fruition.

FG commences installation of e-gates at international airports to check harassment by immigration officers
Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo

Earlier, in December 2023, the Head of the Civil Service, Folasade Yemi-Esan, emphasised on plans to fully digitise all processes in Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) – to meet the deadline of 2025 as stipulated in the Federal Civil Service and Strategy and Implementation Plan, 2021-2025.

Well, “will” they meet the deadline? Time will tell.

On broadband penetration

On broadband infrastructure, the manifesto stated that the Tinubu-led administration would ensure “the National Broadband Plan to deliver broadband services to 90% of the population is achieved by 2025”.

No actionable plans or strategies.

Recall that the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 aimed to deliver data download speeds of 25Mbps in urban areas and 10Mbps in rural areas, with effective coverage for at least 70% internet penetration by 2025.

Unfortunately, a recent report by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) revealed that Nigeria’s broadband penetration rate dropped by 10.7% after the Population Commission adjusted the country’s population figures. This adjustment revealed that only 40.48% of 216.7 million Nigerians had internet access by September 2023.

Also, seven months after Tijani became Minister, internet access declined from 45.57% to 43.53%. And, there are indications that the decline will continue. 

Nigeria to establish startup house in San Francisco- Minister Tijani
Bosun Tijani, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy

In a press release in March, however, President Tinubu directed the Federal Ministry of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy; the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and the Federal Ministry of Environment to align regulations and tax frameworks to facilitate investment expansion in telecommunications and broadband infrastructure nationwide.

Earlier, in February, the federal government and World Bank targeted $3 billion to fund an additional 120,000km of fibre optic cables to leapfrog broadband infrastructure and connectivity in Nigeria. 

Tijani expressed hope that the funds will be raised in the next two or three years, and have “received significant interest from the African Development Bank who are looking to put about $200 million into this.”

The minister said the project will be delivered in the next two or three years. 

Also, to achieve the broadband target, the national executive council of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) disclosed plans to host a one-day strategic stakeholder meeting with the 36 state commissioners including Federal Capital Territory (FCT), permanent secretaries and heads of ICT agencies, to brainstorm on how Nigeria can achieve broadband targets.

The state government needs to work with telecom operators to ensure that all hindrances and bottlenecks to pervasive and ubiquitous broadband are completely eradicated through constructive dialogue.

President of ATCON, Tony Izuagbe Emoekpere

But, “Nigeria is not going to meet its broadband penetration target,” Ikemesit Effiong, partner and head of research at SBM Intelligence said. Data released by SBM Intelligence in April 2024 found that Nigerians now spend less on communication and entertainment despite relative price stability in voice and data tariffs.

And, if Nigerians are spending less on communication and entertainment, it could indicate a decreased willingness to pay for broadband services. This could dampen the growth of broadband subscriptions, hindering penetration targets.

Other factors like infrastructure development, competition among providers, and government initiatives can also play a significant role in broadband penetration.

Tech manufacturing – which the government is less interested in – also plays a significant role in broadband penetration, influencing various factors that contribute to the availability and quality of Internet services.  

For clarity, the manufacturing of networking equipment (routers, switches, fibre optic cables, and modems) is essential for building and expanding broadband infrastructure. Advanced manufacturing processes lead to the production of more efficient and cost-effective equipment, which can accelerate the rollout of broadband services.

Continuous advancements in tech manufacturing lead to the development of better technologies, such as more efficient 5G equipment or advanced fibre optics. These innovations enhance the capacity and speed of broadband networks, making high-speed internet more accessible to a broader population.

But, we are going to pretend like we don’t know this. 

The Blockchain conversation

In his campaign manifesto, President Tinubu pledged to legalise crypto and blockchain technology for use in the country’s banking and finance sector.

So, when the central bank reversed a two-year prohibition on crypto transactions in December 2023, Nigerians felt a more favourable regulatory environment towards crypto. But, the feeling was short-lived when the country’s leadership started looking for scapegoats to the country’s falling currency and started cracking down on crypto platforms. 

Following the exit of Binance from the Nigerian market, the National Assembly feigned concern and took steps to investigate the policy stance of President Tinubu’s administration on cryptocurrency amid perceived policy inconsistency.

It was reported earlier in May that Nigeria is preparing to introduce new regulations to ban peer-to-peer (P2P) cryptocurrency exchanges using the national currency, the Nigerian naira.

According to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Director General Emomotimi Agama, the new regulations aim to delist the naira from P2P exchanges in order to protect the local currency from manipulation. He stated:

Recent concerns regarding crypto P2P traders and their perceived impact on the exchange rate of the naira has underscored the need for collective action.”

In between digesting this, NITDA has restructured the National Blockchain Policy Steering Committee (NBPSC) to reassess the policies guiding the implementation of the country’s National Blockchain Policy.

Inuwa stated that the review is part of efforts to stay abreast of blockchain innovations and expand its reach by involving additional stakeholders, promoting comprehensive adoption and successful execution.

Presently, we are still at the development stage of blockchain usage in Nigeria, and because of that, many people are not aware of its benefits. They think it is just about crypto alone, but it is vast. Blockchain can be used in any industry, like supply chain management, to ensure that the right products get to the consumer.”

Inuwa said the committee’s strategic reform would bring together a fresh wave of experienced professionals and leading minds in the blockchain space. He said their diverse expertise will be instrumental in crafting a robust implementation plan for the National Blockchain Policy. 

SiBAN president says crypto regulation should not come as strangulation
Obinna Iwuno speaking at an event in Lagos

This is coming months after Obinna Iwuno, the president of the Stakeholders in Blockchain Association of Nigeria (SiBAN) called on the federal government to implement regulations that will foster the widespread integration of the approved blockchain policy in the country.  

This is the first time we have a full house of industry stakeholders, regulators and operators. We are ready for full adoption now, and the blockchain policy initiated by the government positions Nigeria as a trailblazer in the continent’s digital economy landscape if fully implemented.

Obinna Iwuno, President, SiBAN

We are in the ‘will’ stage for this too. 

The Nigerian Startup Act

In November 2023, a Startup Support and Engagement Portal was launched in Nigeria – a key requirement for the implementation of the Nigeria Startup Act signed by former president, Muhammadu Buhari in October 2022.

Nigeria Startup Act

“The launch of the portal will allow us to initiate the process of setting up the startup consultative forums to select representatives to the National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship to facilitate discourse and consensus among Nigerian ecosystem players,” NITDA said.

Five months after, NITDA reported that 12,948 startups had registered on the portal. It also had 912 venture capitalists, 1,735 investors, 925 accelerators, incubators and hubs.

Enthusiastic about the registrations, Tijani said:

I am delighted that the Nigeria Startup Portal, which will label startups and register other ecosystem actors has now been deployed. The platform will also facilitate a consultative forum where issues affecting startups can be discussed and properly defined for action by the government and other stakeholders.

Bosun Tijani on Startup portal

He adds, “We will be prioritising the objectives of Startup Act to improve the operating environment, prospects, and opportunities for our Startup Ecosystem and I’m encouraging members of the ecosystem to visit the platform and register.”

Following up on this, the minister announced that the government plans to set up the Nigerian Digital Technology Exchange Program Hub in a government-owned property in San Francisco, US. In an announcement on X, the minister also said that the building will be called the Nigerian Startup House going forward.

Bosun Tijani announces the establishment of the Nigerian Startup House in San Francisco

    Key takeaways

    Nigeria has a penchant for lingering in the “we will” stages of policies and programs, a trait all too evident in the current administration. Implementation tends to be an interminable journey, while maintenance is a rare, almost mythical concept.

    We certainly commend initiatives like the 3MTT and the Startup portal but it’s hard to ignore the tough year the tech sector has endured under this administration, worsened by the forex crisis

    Nigeria still has the potential to turn things around—we just need to revisit the drawing board and start sketching some action.

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