By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

The Director-General of Nigeria’s National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Isa Pantami, says the agency is set to reduce $2 billion (about N720 billion) lost yearly by the country as capital flight as a result of the importation of offshore technologies into the country.

He gave this assurance yesterday during this year’s Gulf Information Technology Exhibition going on at the Dubai World Trade Centre, United Arabs Emirates (UAE).

The startups at this year’s 37th GITEX include Coudiora, Nicademia, Beat Drone, Accounteer, Dropque, MTK e-Learning Portal, My Padi, Ward Monitor, Tattara and Six Internet of Things (IoT).

They are to compete with hundreds of tech startups from across the world to be able to win a $30,000 million (about N10.8 million) investment to develop their solution in commercially viable way.

According to Pantami, there is need for Nigeria to promote local technology solutions developed by citizens in order to shoot the country into becoming one of the countries to be reckoned with globally in ICT.

According to him, NITDA has realised that developing the local ICT ecosystem for indigenous IT companies and for startup by offering them an enabling environment in terms of policy and laws to operate is one of the ways Nigeria can halt the yearly $2 billion to capital flight.

Explaining the areas NITDA is focusing on at this year’s IT exhibition, Pantami said the agency has come with seven agenda designed to develop the IT industry and curb the huge annual capital flight.

 “These include promoting IT regulations, IT development and promotions, striking partnership on how to better secure Nigerian cyberspace, capacity building, promotion of e-government, showcasing indigenous tech innovations as well as looking for investors that will support local development of the IT industry,” he said.

He said the agency is working with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to ensure that the annual estimated N37.8 billion wasted on frivolous ICT projects, especially when they abandon local IT companies and go abroad or their IT procurements, is stopped through the enforcement of NITDA Act that says all MDAs must get clearance from NITDA for any IT project they want to embark upon to ensure those projects are implementable.

He recalled that when an MDA’s IT project was screened by the agency, it resulted in saving government N500 million. This, according to him, was saved from a single IT project, adding that one could imagine how much would have been saved if thorough screenings of all MDA's IT projects were carried out in the country.

Chairman, Senate Committee on ICT and Cybersecurity, Senator Abdul Fatai Buhari, and his counterparts in Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Hon. Onawo Muhammed Ogoshi, who joined the NITDA management to undertake a tour of the solutions being showcased by the 10 startups, expressed satisfaction with what they saw.

The lawmakers, who took time to listen to the 10 startups, promised to implement tax holidays for the 10 startups.

“This is how Microsoft, Google, Facebook and several other IT companies started and as lawmakers, our mandate is to always enact laws that would support local innovations,” Sen Buhari said.

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