Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr. (CFA)

Nigeria certainly does not lack the brainpower or ideas required to transform the country for the better. Where we have always missed the mark is in turning ideas into action plans and even when we plan, the execution is simply poor.

It gladdens my heart that the Federal Government recently inaugurated the Technology and Creativity Advisory Group. The new group recently inaugurated by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was set up under the aegis of the Nigerian Industrial and Competitiveness Advisory Council to provide specific solutions to several technology and creativity challenges in the country.

The ultimate objective of the group is to develop an all-inclusive platform that will serve as a launch pad for start-ups in the technology and creativity industries.

One question on my mind though, is what would this group do differently? I must confess, however, that the array of professionals, many of them personally known to me, inspires confidence in the group’s ability to deliver.

How well will some of their recommendations be accepted and executed is the question that remains to be answered.

It is one thing to assemble innovative entrepreneurs and policy makers for a worthy purpose; it is quite another to get them beyond the round table, to rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done.

This group will either go the way of others and become history, or at best, assume the status of a reference point, if it is not guided properly. This is what I intend to do in today’s piece as a key stakeholder because actionable results that will provide Nigerian youths with the hope of a better future is what really matters most. Below are some actionable agenda that can serve as a guide:

  1. Power is absolutely important

The lack of adequate power supply is completely sad. Technological innovation is almost impossible without power and this is the foundation upon which we can build on.

It is in the best interest of the group to continually let the government understand that attempting to innovate without basics like power and broadband is like passing through a burning flame and only a few can make it to the other side.

Put simply, without constant electricity, creativity cannot grow beyond a certain point and the technology industry cannot properly develop as well.

  1. Set up an innovation fund

Thousands of business ideas float around in the head of the average Nigerian youth but these ideas soon die out when there is no fund to actualise them. In fact, thousands of daring entrepreneurs have gone on to launch enterprises that end up dying within the first couple of years due to lack of funds. Business ideas require funds to be implemented and new start-ups require capital to take off and be sustained.

Banks require collateral that the young start-ups simply do not have. The new Technology and Creativity Advisory Group will go a long way in creating thousands of entrepreneurs every year if only they urge government to make an innovation fund (truly) a reality.

  1. Open Nigeria to global digital services

I am a firm believer in digital jobs and freelancing as a viable strategy of getting more young people off the streets. However, one of the main problems confronting thousands of Nigerian freelancers working online is the difficulty of getting paid.

PayPal is the leading payment portal of choice to millions of online employers in developed countries and they prefer to pay freelancers largely using this digitised payment option. Unfortunately, Nigerian freelancers cannot get paid via PayPal. This leads to increased frustrations for these people eager to do legitimate jobs online.

To this end, the Technology and Creativity Advisory Group would have answered the prayers of our teeming youths if it can get PayPal and other global digital services to accept Nigeria. Every country in the world including the United States has internet fraudsters. So the totality of Nigerians must not be punished for the greed of a few.

  1. Deepen local content

I wonder if there is any unassailable reason why Nigerians do not like patronising made-in-Nigeria products and services. Must everything used in Nigeria be purchased from foreign countries – software, clothing, shoes, building materials and even, underwear?

The mistaken mentality is that foreign products are superior to locally produced articles but nothing could be further from the truth. The tech industry is not any different.

The nation suffer a huge foreign exchange drain when the government and other organisations spend billions of Naira annually to service various types software solutions that have been deployed.

What is most sad is that some of the solutions can be developed locally. We have to allow our people try, at the very least.

  1. Reward creativity

The creativity industry covers the music, movies, arts, literary, technology and other aspects of general life. The Nigerian entertainment industry is booming and the Vice President Osinbajo made reference to the N1bn that the Bank of Industry released to boost movie production in Nollywood.

The Technology and Creativity Advisory Group will help Nigerians to generate better creatives if innovators in various creative niches are rewarded for their talents and productivity. One of the things that I believe creatives require the most is also some level of corporate recognition to excel in their chosen fields of music, writing, acting and sports among others.

What will give me and many others the most joy is to see this group come up with policies that will make it less of a crime being a start-up in Nigeria today because this is how a lot of entrepreneurs feel when they are pounded left, right and centre by weak policies and a non-supportive environment.

I hope that one brilliant technology media practitioner, entrepreneur or publisher make it into the group. I don’t know for sure because I am yet to see the full list. Unfortunately, we still do not appreciate the importance of information strategy and dissemination.

A few days ago, the veteran Jimi Disu lamented that government (at all levels) sadly was not taking information management seriously compared to the western world. He said, “The information ministry is usually reserved for the least influential.” This is a development that has to change but until then, I wish the group all the best.

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