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#StartUPNaija: Pantami Says Nigeria Closer to Having Own 'Zuckerberg'

peter oluka
   (L-r): Dr. Isa Pantami, the director general and chief executive officer of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), presenting certificate of participation to one of the startups, while Dr. Amina Sambo Magaji, acting national coordinator of OIIE, observes.
(L-r): Dr. Isa Pantami, the director general and chief executive officer of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), presenting certificate of participation to one of the startups, while Dr. Amina Sambo Magaji, acting national coordinator of OIIE, observes.

The Nigerian startup ecosystem, with proper regulations and support, has capacity to become the strong catalytic force for sustainable economic growth across nations, even producing the like of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.

Dr. Isa Pantami, the director general and chief executive officer of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), dropped the comment at the seventh StartUP Nigeria, the brainchild of the Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE).

The DG alluded to OIIE's position that ICT "is not only indispensable for developing new products and services but also for ensuring the survival of any business in the competitive world by providing ample opportunities for growth and profitability".

He said that NITDA has raved up its processes for proper regulation and development, crucial for supporting the startup and entrepreneurs ecosystem in the Country.

The NITDA's interwoven roles are relevant for the country to achieve its purpose of "creative transformation of knowledge and ideas into new products, processes, or services meeting market needs, which culminates in successful enterprises".

He believes that the competitiveness of any economy in the long term depends on innovation potential of the economy gained through entrepreneurship and effective technology transfer, especially now that revenue from the 'oil and gas' industry is on downward trend.

Dr. Pantami warned that Nigeria cannot remain an ' oil and gas resource' based economy, as every projections show other countries are making a turn away from oil.

The NITDA DG said, "StartUPNigeria held in Lagos today (Saturday) is a prelude to GITEX 2017, as NITDA tends to select the best startups to represent the country. This is critical in helping even the regulatory aspects of the IT sector. We identify with startups that need our technical, financial supports to push their solutions forward.

"We believe Lagos is home to innovative startups; thus, we intend to assist them improve on their works. The truth is this: our country relies solely on oil and gas sector; in UK for instance by 2040 they intend to ban diesel or petrol cars, so our reliance on oil is disturbing.

"We have to move from oil resource to knowledge-based economy. ICT has the answer to this. The contribution of 12.6% of ICT to GDP is second to oil at the moment, but will soon takeover. India depends on ICT as $143billion annual comes from ICT; Nigeria accounts for 180million with 60% young people who are addicted to ICT.

"Today, you can't do without smart devices or not connected; it's not worth trying. We as ICT natives are addicted to it. The best way is not importation, but using our intellects to develop. No country will survive depending on ICT importation. We have met with OEMs to see how to reduce the level of importation. We want to have a 'Mark Zuckerberg' in Nigeria. Nigeria is closer to having own Zuckerberg and we shall surely support the process that will produce that platform".

Earlier, Dr. Amina Sambo Magaji, acting national coordinator of OIIE, thanked the exemplary leadership of the NITDA DG and the management for giving OIIE platform to meet with startups and solve needs in the ecosystem.

She said that OIIE's vision to drive ICT innovation and entrepreneurship through policies, initiatives, partnership and programs implementation by focusing on socio- economic impact, competitiveness, and sustainable & inclusive growth, was carefully crafted to ensure the startups are impacted positively.

She said the Office is not relenting on its focus, amongst others, on innovation and entrepreneurship by fostering a more innovative digital economy through turning new ideas and inventions into products and technologies that spur job growth and competitiveness while promoting economic development.

She announced that over 60 pitches were received online for StartUP Nigeria held, while 11 startups made pitched at the event held at the Admiralty Conference Centre, Naval Dockyard Complex, Wilmot Point, Ahmad Bello Way, Victoria Island.

Startups that Pitched:
Accounteer- a smart cloud based platform meant to create professional invoices with ease and get paid faster; accept instant payment from your customers using their favourite means of payment.

TheFarmyard, a mobile platform for farm monitoring and assists in making informed decisions.

BeatDrone- a multi-sector drone service project that uses drones-As-A-Service for Agric

“Six”- IOT solution to road safety concerns in Nigeria

Nicademia- an online distributions platform for African inspired cartoons.

Livekampus, an online platform to book accommodation for students

Comestibles Nigeria- a mobile platform targeted at farmers, consumers and grocery stores

Novael- a mobile platform aimed at using using technology to drive the creative (art) industry in Nigeria, to empower youths (Writers)

TapPay- online voucher platform that enables bank customers to deposit at the comfort of their homes, anytime

SwiftCheckup- a secured online platform to book medical tests easily. an ecommerce platform connecting buyers and sellers while providing other auxiliary services.

The Selection Process
To get to the point of pitching, the Ag., National Coordinator of OIIE said, “NITDA is trying to create jobs in Nigeria; it is huge task. Basically, we seek approval from the management of NITDA to start notifying the public; the startup community in particular, through the social media, traditional media and radio jingles. The essence is to have a wide range reach where every Nigerian is given opportunity to send their pitches to the opened portal.

“Once we get the pitches we create a panel of judges drawn from the academia, business, legal and other areas we believe the startups would be needing mentorship too. The judges spend time collating the pitches. So, it is done in stages. For the StartUP Nigeria the pitches were reduced to 70 using different criteria; then we looked at the innovation of the technical presentation. From there, the figure came down to 30. At each level, we have different set of judges.

“The final set of judges comes from the business community. That was how we narrowed the pitches to 12, spending time with them at a bootcamp, teaching them (startups) how to pitch. So, it is a generally rigorous and transparent process”.