Federal government has applauded the roles played by Adebayo Shittu, minister of Communications and Dr. Isa Pantami, director general of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) for their roles during the Aso Villa Demo Day (AVDD) 2016.
Similarly, the FG disclosed the approval of N756.3 million for disbursement to 81 young Nigerian innovators as part of the government’s economic empowerment initiatives.
Professor Yemi Osibanjo, Vice President of Nigeria, disclosed this during the grant award ceremony on Tuesday in Abuja, stated that the journey of the empowerment initiative started last year as part of government efforts to positioning Nigeria and Nigerians to take advantage of the opportunities in Technology to provide local solutions to local problems.
He noted that, “today with the injection of over N750 million naira into 81 Tech SMEs in the country, I want to thank the Minister of Trade and Investment for his support and provision of these funds via the GEM project domiciled in his ministry”.
“I also want to thank the Minister of Communications for the role he played, and the leadership he provided through the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) during the Aso Villa Demo Day (AVDD) 2016.”
The Vice President stated that the participants at the AVDD have shown that the future is bright for Nigerian technology.
“One of the participants, Ifedayo Oladapo, is the founder of Grit Systems, an internet-enabled technology that offers a simple way to quantify power consumption from multiple power sources, letting Nigerians make informed data driven decisions about power consumption.
Another participant, Dimgba Kalu, a 28-year old Nigerian, runs a venture that trains software engineers and deploys them to businesses. These are clear indications that we are on the right path” he said.
Osibanjo stated that at the AVDD finale, Mr President welcomed the top 30 participants in the State House.
“I also attended the ceremony thereafter in the company of the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. At that event, we listened to Iyin Aboyeji’s take on growing local Tech companies, Iyin is one of Nigeria’s shining stars and the founder of Andela – a Tech Training firm and Mark Zuckerberg’s first big investment in Africa with an investment of $24 million by the Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Foundation”.
“Today, with government’s first major investment in Technology Start-Up companies, I am confident that we have started the journey to building many more Andelas, Yusufs and Venture Garden Groups. Congratulations to all the grantees and I wish you the best in your endeavors.”
According to the Vice President, “The GEM-AVDD partnership demonstrates Government commitment to celebrate and empower the most promising and highly scalable indigenous technology start-ups who are providing innovative solutions to local challenges in Nigeria” he stated.
On his part, Okechukwu Enelamah, minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, stated that the grant is made possible through the Growth and Employment Project (GEM) financed by the World Bank IDA Credit.
He noted that the young innovators were selected following a rigorous technological innovation competition organized by the Presidency called Aso Villa Demo Day, which targets young Nigerian entrepreneurs with innovative business models that could contribute to the growth of the economy.
According to him, “having awarded grants to the best three innovators that emerged winners from the 2016 AVDD national competition, the Presidency engaged GEM to scale up the programme for wider impact”.
“GEM-AVDD Project invited business plan submissions from 289 shortlisted candidates that participated in the regional AVDD pitch screening events that took place in Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Abuja in 2016. After a rigorous evaluation process, 81 of these candidates met all required eligibility and selection criteria and were selected as beneficiaries” Enalamah said.
The Minister said the beneficiaries were drawn from the six geo-political zones based on registrations to date on GEM’s Business Innovation and Growth (BIG) portal and the grants will be disbursed in two separate tranches, after the grant award.
“GEM is about igniting businesses and building their capacity to grow and employ Nigerians. Above all, it helps solve the problem of funding faced by many of our MSMEs” Enelamah noted.
Andrew Gartside, representing the World Bank country Director to Nigeria, said that the country needed to create jobs through the Small and Medium Enterprises as way of ensuring inclusive economic growth.
“If the economy of Nigeria is to grow and the desired diversification of the FG must succeed, the SMEs will have to grow and succeed to harness the economy” he noted.
The GEM Project is a $160m World Bank IDA Credit with a Project Implementation Unit at the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. The Project Development Objective is to increase growth and employment in participating firms in Nigeria through provision of technical assistance and grants to qualified existing firms/businesses across Nigeria, operating in five high growth sectors namely: Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Hospitality, Entertainment, Light Manufacturing, and Construction.
Over the life of the grant, the GEM Project would verify the achievement of set milestones by beneficiaries and monitor project progress as condition for the second disbursement. Impact evaluation surveys would also be conducted subsequently.