Microsoft Corporation, led by its President, Brad Smith, on Thursday expressed interest in making the nation’s tech space Africa’s most viable, in partnership with the Federal Government for the benefit of the Nigerian people, especially young people.
The team spoke during a virtual meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who, while welcoming the development, said it could be leveraged to address issues affecting the youths especially in engaging them productively.
Specifically, according to a statement by Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Microsoft plans to support the Digital Transformation pillar of the Federal Government’s Economic Sustainability Plan.
This, he noted, will be a continuation of the technology company’s investment in Nigeria after the establishment of an African Technology Development Centre in 2020, all in affirmation of the efforts of the Buhari administration in the creation of a viable technology ecosystem in Nigeria.
Recall that Google Inc. in July 2020 announced plans to establish its first Google Launchpad Space outside the United States in Lagos; while Facebook, in September last year, announced its decision to open an office in Lagos as part of its planned expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa. On the other hand, HUAWEI, two months later, promised the Vice President to position Nigeria as a technology center for the African continent.
Speaking on the need to constantly engage with the youths, the Vice President noted that Nigeria’s case is peculiar, given that the youths constitute a larger percentage of the country’s population hence the need for all stakeholders to pay more attention to that demography.
According to Osinbajo, “it seems to me that there is just a wave of general anger around the world and people are generally impatient. Impatient with government, impatient with practically all of the formal structures there are.
“But I am open and happy to hear what views there might be on trying to engage and engage even more with young people (and in our case, that is 70% of our population, if not more). So, we are really talking not just about the youth population but the Nigerian populace because that is the majority. So, whatever it is that we are able to deploy to be more inclusive, to engage even more, is really a solution for the entire populace as opposed to a solution for just a segment of our population especially given the fact that young people constitute 70% or even more.”
Speaking on the government efforts in developing the technology space especially in boosting viable sectors of the economy, Prof. Osinbajo noted that “we have a digital innovation initiative which we hope will be the foundation for doing far more in the digital space than we are doing at the moment.”
Continuing, Prof. Osinbajo stressed that “just looking at agriculture, this is obviously something that we’ve spent quite a bit of time and resources on especially in the past few years. We have also seen the development of a good number of agric-tech type companies and fin-techs that are also working in the agric sector. So, it’s a whole load of innovation around the agric tech space, especially in the past few years. So, I think we really are up for programmes that will support these sorts of agric-tech initiatives”.
Referring to the partnership with Microsoft, especially the establishment of the development centre, the Vice President said “I have always wondered how Microsoft can just be a much more effective partner with us as a country.
“Beginning with the African Development Centre which I think is excellent, I think it shows the commitment of Microsoft in developing the digital centre here in Nigeria. And it also shows the company’s confidence in the sort of talents that we have and the commitment of government to ensuring that we develop that talent in the best possible ways that we can.”
Assuring investors in the Nigerian economy of the commitment of the Buhari administration in creating the right environment for businesses to thrive, the Vice President said “we are all working to create the right environment for innovation and creativity. That remains an issue that we are dealing with on a daily basis, and I think that the challenges are the challenges of the sort that we are going to have to be dealing with (in my view) even in the coming years.”
On his part, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Isa Pantami, said the Federal Government has already put in place the necessary structures to partner with Microsoft and other tech companies in developing Nigeria’s technology ecosystem.
He said the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy, the National Policy on E-governance, among others, have been adopted by the Buhari administration to support the growth of technology and innovation in the country.
Speaking earlier, Smith said his company’s vision for investment in Nigeria was one that would lead to the creation of Africa’s most viable technology ecosystem, assuring that the plan for the country is a demonstration of its enthusiasm about the digital transformation ongoing in Nigeria under the Buhari administration.
He proposed a 90-day timeline for stakeholders on the government side and from Microsoft, to iron out details of the various areas of collaboration.
Other participants at the meeting include Microsoft Corporation’s Country Manager for Nigeria and Ghana, Akin Banuso, among others.