The Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa, has said that digitizing micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) will increase revenue by 26% as well as reduce operating cost by 22%, and contribute $53 billion to the Nigerian economy.
Inuwa made the statement while delivering an opening remark at the TechMyBiz Pitch-A-Thon event in Lagos, which was jointly funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The TechMyBiz Pitch-a-thon is a process of selecting digital innovations in Africa. It started with a “Call for Digital Solutions” campaign, which offered a platform for many innovators, entrepreneurs, and startups within the Nigerian ecosystem to register their already created digital solutions. From the 50 selected solutions, 30 are expected to emerge as winners.
Inuwa noted that digitization is about operational excellence, using technology as an enabler for business efficiency, more productivity, increased revenue, and cost savings.
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He said that despite the available opportunities, there are challenges that need to be addressed in order to realize the potential of digital transformation in MSMEs.
- Firstly, we need to create innovation-friendly conditions in our country in terms of enabling policies and laws, government services, ease of doing business, and so on.
- Secondly, we need to have support organizations — platform that will assist to digitise MSMEs for innovation hubs around the country to incubate ideas, because innovation is a process of taking an idea from inception to impact that means you can have an idea, and you can be innovative, but that is not enough, you need to commercialise your ideas.
- Then we need the infrastructure, this is important to MSMEs, but Africa is lacking in digital public infrastructure. Digital public infrastructure is beyond having connectivity and access to computers. The Second Industrial Revolution was about massive production which requires enabling infrastructure for transportation, but today we are in the fourth Industrial Revolution, which is about digital services, therefore, we need the required infrastructure to aid digital services.
- Lastly, is the challenge of digital skills and literacy. The digital offerings require digitally literate consumers to benefit from the services, therefore there is the need to enlighten and educate the populace to acquire digital literacy skills.
Quoting the DG of SMEDAN, Inuwa reiterated that MSMEs contribute to 96 percent of businesses, 83 percent of the workforce, and 43 percent of the nation’s GDP. “With digital technology, SMEs can have an exponential growth transformation that will upscale businesses.”
In his conclusion, he expanded on the need to have a digital sovereignty through adequate infrastructure, adding that the Nigerian government through NITDA is implementing the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) to promote in-country skills to address these challenges.
“The Start-up Act, if fully implemented, will address all these challenges, in policy development, friendly environment, enabling infrastructure, innovation clusters around the country and many more.”
“This form of engagement, places the continent on the right track and together we can build the kind of environment, infrastructure, and the required skills we need to accelerate digitisation in Nigeria,” he affirmed.
Others in attendance were Mr Markus Wauschkuhn, Coordinator Commission Social policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC); Technical Lead Evaluation Expert Charles Emembolu; representatives of the European Union(EU); ISN Board; and other industry experts.