As the 2021 draws to a close, the Nigerian digital economy space is fast expanding and holds enormous prospects for the coming year (2022) with the Information and Communication Technology (ICT), sector enjoying a robust growth despite the disruptions of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
According to the minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ibrahim Pantami the contributions of the ICT sector to the nations GDP was 17.92 per cent of 2021 in Q2 compared to 14.91 per cent in Q1 2021 and 17.83 per cent in the previous year. This perhaps is the highest growing non-oil sector of the Nigerian economy a testament that the digital sector can add more value to the Nigerian economy if more investment is made into it to drive the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)
This is be in line with the vision of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS 2020-2030) with the vision “to transform Nigeria into a leading digital economy providing quality life and digital economies for all.”
It is pertinent now to increase digital innovation and promote entrepreneurship to lift Nigerians out of the deplorable poverty ravaging the people.
According to the World Poverty clock and the Brookings Institute, Nigeria’s poverty rate has hit over 40 per cent in the last six years while the World Bank in December 2019 warned that if drastic policy measures are not taken, 25% of the world’s poor might come from Nigeria by 2030. According Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment in Nigeria is 33.3 per cent and inflation remains at double digit of over 15 per cent. These are figures are not kind to Nigeria and it requires effective policy measures to address especially investment in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
These may have motivated a recent collaboration between the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and Sapphital Learning to enhance the capacity of MSMEs through digital skill acquisition using online learning platform.
This was the crux of the scheme tagged, “NCC-SMEDAN collaboration on SME Digital Academy, which is a partnership between NCC, SMEDAN and Sapphital Learning (the developers of the platform and the digital contents)” in the project meant to train over 41 million MSMEs in Nigeria.
The academy is billed to equip 100 entrepreneurs with requisite knowledge of Business Planning; Strategic Plans; Raising Money; Selling Products; Stakeholders Management; Business Proposal development and to provide jobs.
The Academy, which was set up by SMEDAN to support the SME development during the COVID-19 connects Instructors to Learners; Experts to Startups; Funding Parties to businesses; Government to Millions of MSMEs.
Executive Vice Chairman of NCC Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the Commission will build and empower digital ecosystems through the Academy that connect multiple stakeholders together for value creation, distribution and use.
Represented by Director, Digital Economy, Engr. Austin Nwaunule, Danbatta described the establishment of strategic partnership between the two agencies as historic, stressing that their missions align with Nigeria’s Economic Diversification using Digital technologies.
‘‘Over the years, we have catalyzed the development of Nigeria’s Digital Economy, providing ICT support and leverage to various sectors of Nigeria’s economy.
‘‘Knowledge indeed, is the food of every Economy and Digital Economy for that matter. This is what the NCC stands for. We build and power Digital Ecosystems that connect multiple Stakeholders together for Value Creation and distribution and use,” he said.
The NCC boss expressed optimism that the scheme will greatly improve businesses as it would utilize the power of communications and learning to transfer vital knowledge to MSMEs.
‘‘The path to greatness has been established; it is now left to all of us to key in and support this laudable initiative. There could not have been a better time to empower our MSMEs than now that the nation desperately needs diversification of its Economy.
‘‘With this academy, no more borders; no more boundaries; no more walls. The Digital Economy has come to stay, is, and will progressively be remaining the major contributor to our Nation’s GDP,’’ he added.
He assured that the commission will continue to provide leverage for the needed ICT Infrastructure; both demand and supply side to enhance the reach of the Digital Academy to more MSMEs across Nigeria.
The Director General of SMEDAN, Dr. Dikko Umar, who was represented by Monday Ewans, said the partnership with NCC is geared toward sharpening the competencies of the MSMEs to be able to create jobs, grow their businesses and boost the economy.
According to him, the Academy will offer the beneficiaries access to digital learning from the comfort of the homes. He noted that SMEDAN would sustain the scheme through regular budget provisions, assuring that the training will take place yearly on the quarterly basis.
The CEO of Sapphital Learning, Amu Ogbeide said it has become necessary to add digital skills into the competencies of the MSMEs and to connect them in a digital platform without necessarily coming together.
According an expert, “Nigerians are very enterprising and a strong digital economy will spur opportunities that will be exploited by the youth population to become more completive globally. That is the only assurance for lifting the nation out of the poverty pit and creating a prosperous future. But Nigeria must invest massively in this sector and use it to curb corruption and fight insecurity.”