As the only African country that exhibited at the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition, GITEX Technology Week 2018 which held from October 14-18, at Dubai World Trade Centre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria was like a bride sought after by many suitors. CHIMA AKWAJA reports on Nigeria’s outing. Excerpts.
For Nigeria, its participation at the 38th edition of the GITEX Technology Week and Future Stars exhibition at Dubai World Trade Centre in Dubai, United Arab Emiates from October 14-18 and conference will create lasting impressions in the minds of visitors, delegates, exhibitors and the business community for years to come being the only African state with a country pavilion at Sheik Rashid Hall 1 reserved for national governments. Visitors desiring to do business in Africa especially Nigeria, trooped in to make enquiries about the opportunities and how they can partner and make inroads into the largest black nation on earth. On display were Nigeria’s large population and abundant market, tech savvy youthful population, quick return on investments and a growing yet untapped startups whose innovations are luring tech giants from Silicon Valley, USA. The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), which regulates information technology development pitched eight Nigerian tech startups to global investors aimed at attracting investments to expand and become global companies in the future.
The Nigerian technology startups featured at the Future Stars, an event featuring over 700 startups, collocated at the GITEX 2018. Among them were Max.ng, a technology transport and logistics company that makes taxis and motorbikes accessible to users; Arone which provides a faster, cheaper and eco-friendly delivery using autonomous drones.
Others are Wattlinq Ltd, which provides energy devices that enable users monitor, control and manage their electricity sources and electronic appliances through an Internet of Things (IoT) gateway; Beesoft Ltd, which is into production of hardware consumer goods and software development; Off-k.com, an online platform providing potential student tenants with a wide range of accommodation options in higher institutions.
The rest include Domineum Blockchain Solutions Limited, a digital land registry platform using distributed ledger technology (DLT) network with nodes operated by government agencies, institutions, private companies and the company itself; and Voguepay.com, a fast growing e-payment firm servicing over 10,000 SMEs all looking for angel investors and venture capitalists to bring their dreams of solving Nigeria’s challenges. Two of the startups, Arone and Max made it to the semi-finalists at the GITEX 2018 startup competition.
GITEX, A Masterpiece Expo
With the theme: ‘Experience Future Urbanism’, the expo showcased Global Smart Cities, IoT (the Internet of Things), Smart Workplaces, Cloud, Cyber Security and Future Tech, Mobility, Artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, robotics, virtual and augmented reality as well as over 700 startups. This year’s event drew more than 4,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries, 100,000 plus tech experts over five days, who visited 21 halls, accounting for 1.4million square feet. The showpiece was inaugurated by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council along with other dignitaries. More than 200 government entities are taking part. Trixie LohMirmand, senior vice president, Events Management, Dubai World Trade Centre, organisers of GITEX, said technologies are meant to create experiences to augment the well-being of the individuals and larger society. “We are proud that GITEX enterprises, startups and government entities come together, striving to transform intricate tech talk into meaningful manifestations of happiness that are relatable, accessible and in reach of a truly inquisitive and intelligent audience.”
Pitching To Attract Investors
Pitching to attract foreign investors in the jam-packed Sheik Al Makhtoum hall, venue of the African Investment Forum organised by Nigeria were the Nigerian delegation led by the Director-general of NITDA, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami; Senator Foster Ogola, vice chairman, Senate Committee on ICT; Honourable Mohammed Ogoshi Onawo, chairman, House Committee on ICT; Nigerian companies and government agencies like Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Galaxy Backbone Limited and the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) who had stands at the Nigerian Pavilion.
Pantami stated that the Nigerian ICT sector contributed 11.81 per cent in Q2 2018, up from 1.58 per cent in Q1 2018 to the GDP. “This is very positive and we are confident that we can experience even greater growth in the coming years. As such, this is an opportune time to invest in the Nigerian ICT sector.” On the key attractions to the Nigerian market, he said, a ready pool of young “digital natives” with an average age of 18.2 years await investors in the ICT sector. “Investors can be assured of accessing a large pool of youthful and skillful employees at a fair-price, more cost-effective than engaging employees in other parts of the world” he said. “Innovation is part of our DNA as Nigerians and there are several stories of innovation across the globe that have the imprint of Nigerians. HopStop, an online city transit App acquired by Apple for a whopping $1billion, was owned by a Nigerian-born Entrepreneur. In August 2018, a team of Nigerian teenagers won the first place in the junior division of the Technovation World Pitch Summit that took place in Silicon Valley.
“A Nigerian entrepreneur also developed Mekamon ~the world’s first gaming robot, with the special ability to customise the gaming bot to perform personalised functions” the DG said, adding that NITDA’s Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE) is focused on identifying and supporting promising Nigerian startups in the ICT space, enabling ICT startup innovation ecosystem in Nigeria to grow at a remarkable pace. The tech ecosystem has produced three companies valued for more than $100million. African startups raised $560million in 2017 and Nigerian startups accounted for $114.6million of this amount. These investments and stories of innovation underscore the viability of the Nigerian startups and the capacity of Nigerians to conceive ingenious ideas. “We invite you, our potential investors, to take advantage of this massive talent pool as you invest in Nigeria,” said Pantami.
Nigeria’s Attractive Investment Climate
Nigeria is a gateway to sub-Saharan Africa. It is strategically located between West and Central Africa, giving investors easy access to close to 190 million Nigerians and another 200 million West Africans. Investing in Nigeria can provide access to 150 million Central Africans. It also gives you access to one of Africa’s largest economies with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) valued at $405 billion in 2016, according to the World Bank.
Arc. Yusuf Kazaure, managing director, Galaxy Backbone Limited, the government ICT infrastructure provider, urged investors to avail themselves of the incredible opportunities in Nigeria’ ICT market. “Nigeria and indeed Africa is the next destination for investment. Nigeria has been one of the best kept secrets. Those who have invested have seen multiple returns on their investments. Our ICT sector is now contributing 11 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP). “We’ve come here to GITEX with some of our startups. With a largely young population that is tech savvy, English-speaking, it is an attraction to all investors” he said. Onawo said “You will not regret it coming to do business in Nigeria. Nigeria has a friendly environment. There has never been a time that the lawmakers and the regulators are having a better understanding than now.” Ogola on his part added that the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) has been amended to incorporate latest demands of business; that Nigeria now has a Cybercrime Act 2015 and Electronic Transaction Act that protects transactions and criminalises offences committed. “Investment and Securities Act is being reviewed by Nigeria’s Senate. We are ensuring that every obstacle to doing business is sorted out by Investment and Securities Tribunal (IST) within 90 days. IST is a special court established by law and handled by competent judges to expedite action on any business case brought before it.
“Our legislature is interested in attracting business to Nigeria, we have the capacity to make sure that your investments are safe. In the ICT sector, investors are doing well. MTN, Airtel and other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are making quick profits. We are ready to partner with you but you must play by the rules. Whatever you want, Nigeria has the latitude to accommodate you” said Ogola.
Ease of Doing Business
The Nigerian government has been working astutely to create a level playing ground for both local and foreign investors. The government in July 2016 established the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) to improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria. In addition to this, an Executive Order 001 was signed in May 2017.
This has the aim of creating transparency, ensuing that government agencies publish a complete and updated list of all fees, timelines, conditions and requirements for obtaining permits, licences and approvals on their premises and websites. Also, approvals for applications to government agencies are given within a stipulated period or a default approval will be deemed to have been given after such periods.
The Ease of Doing Business ensure that agencies actively collaborate amongst themselves and documents are only be collected at one point, rather than multiple points as was the case before; Tourist and business visas are now processed within 48hours. The visa-on-arrival process has also been streamlined for efficiency and transparency.
Also, Port Operations have been harmonised into one single interface station implemented by a single joint task force, Registration of business is now fully automated and online. As a result of the ease of doing business initiative, Nigeria now ranks 145 out of 190 countries in the 2018 Doing Business Report, the World Bank’s flagship report, (up from 169/190 in the previous year’s report).
Nigeria was acknowledged as one of the top 10 most improved economies in 2017. We aim to be in the top 100 of the World Bank’s ease of doing business by 2020. In August 2017, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI) published the list of 27 new industries eligible to enjoy the pioneer status incentive in Nigeria.
Companies investing in these sectors receive tax holidays for three to five years. Some of the sectors include E-8 commerce services, Business Process Outsourcing and Software development and publishing. You are invited to invest in the sectors.
On his part, Arif Sayad, founder and CEO of Arif Sayad & Associados Ventures said “I am impressed with the startups from Nigeria I have seen at the #GITEX Future Stars, their products and solutions. Ours is to provide investment funds. We have an investment fund of about $50 million. We are also talking to investors to come to Africa.
Suki Fuller, co-founder and CEO of Salaam Ventures said they are targeting investments that give opportunities to the women folk. Waleed Khalil, partner, Endure Capital said they are definitely looking at investing in African startups while Dr. Dotun Olowoporoko, partner Ventures Platform his company is already investing in 25 early stage startups in Nigeria.
Other Attractions At GITEX
At GITEX, the UAE’s leading service providers Etisalat and du live-trialled the power of 5G through connected cars, AI, robotics, drones, 4K streaming, remote robotic surgery, augmented and virtual realities, tactile interaction, IoT, and more. At the Smart Cities vertical at GITEX Conferences, Dr. Wanli Min, Chief Machine Intelligence Scientist, Alibaba, explained to a captive audience what it means to have a City Brain: AI which develops a neural network across your city to power smart cities.
H.E. Dr. Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director General, Smart Dubai Office (SDO) delivered the keynote address in which she highlighted how Smart Dubai is inspiring new realities by leveraging technologies like AI, IoT and Blockchain.
The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee took to the keynote stage at the 38th GITEX Technology Week. Speaking to a global audience of technology enthusiasts, futurists, investors, innovation evangelists and government leaders, Sir Tim announced his new platform ‘Solid’ at the Dubai World Trade Centre. “We are interested in having developers work with us and give people complete control of their data,” said Sir Tim, speaking to a full house.
Sir Tim highlighted that people are not happy with the state of the web, with possibilities for innovation limited under the control of technology giants. In light of recent global issues around user data and privacy, Sir Tim set out to establish Inrupt, an organisation which will run the Solid platform. An amalgamation of innovation and disruption, Inrupt uses web technology in a way that gives people complete control of their data. With Solid, users will have the freedom to choose how their data is used.
Speaking from the sidelines, Anthony Baker, CEO, SatelliteVu said: “GITEX Future Stars has been great all around and we’ve met investors and customers. You can’t get this experience anywhere else, maybe CES in USA, but that’s so American, whereas this is much more global. We want to sell to Middle East and Asia, we want to reach the rest of the world and we get to do this through GITEX Future Stars.”