Festus Akanbi, Deji Elumoye
American multinational technology company, Microsoft Corporation has joined the list of other global technology giants including Google Inc., HUAWEI, and top social networking company, Facebook currently offering support for the Nigerian government’s digital transformation plan.
The collaborative efforts, according to President, Microsoft, Mr. Brad Smith, would lead to the creation of Africa’s most viable technology ecosystem in Nigeria, explaining that the company’s investment in Nigeria is a demonstration of its enthusiasm about the digital transformation ongoing in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Microsoft’s resolution to back Nigeria’s digital transformation was one of the agreements reached when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo presided over a virtual meeting with Microsoft Corporation team led by its President, on Thursday.
The company’s move, described as a support for the digital transformation pillar of the federal government’s Economic Sustainability Plan, will be a continuation of the technology company’s investment in Nigeria after the establishment of an African Technology Development Centre in 2020.
The Microsoft Africa Development Centre has two initial sites in Lagos and Nairobi, Kenya. The ADC serves as a premier centre of engineering for Microsoft, where world-class African talent can create solutions for local and global impact.
Osinbajo, according to a statement by his media aide, Mr. Laolu Akande, said Microsoft’s interest in supporting the efforts of the federal government was a welcome development which could be leveraged on to address issues affecting the youths especially in engaging them productively.
Speaking on the need to constantly engage with the youths, the Vice President noted that Nigeria’s case is peculiar given that the youths constitute a larger percentage of the country’s population hence the need for all stakeholders to pay more attention to that demography.
“It seems to me that there is just a wave of general anger around the world and people are generally impatient. Impatient with government, impatient with practically all of the formal structures there are.
“But I am open and happy to hear what views there might be on trying to engage and engage even more with young people (and in our case, that is 70% of our population, if not more). So, we are really talking not just about the youth population but the Nigerian populace because that is the majority. So, whatever it is that we are able to deploy to be more inclusive, to engage even more, is really a solution for the entire populace as opposed to a solution for just a segment of our population especially given the fact that young people constitute 70% or even more.”
Speaking on the government efforts in developing the technology space, especially in boosting viable sectors of the economy, Osinbajo noted: “We have a digital innovation initiative which we hope will be the foundation for doing far more in the digital space than we are doing at the moment.
“Just looking at agriculture, this is obviously something that we’ve spent quite a bit of time and resources on especially in the past few years. We have also seen the development of a good number of agric-tech type companies and fin-techs that are also working in the agric sector. So, it’s a whole load of innovation around the agric tech space, especially in the past few years. So, I think we really are up for programmes that will support these sorts of agric-tech initiatives”.
Referring to the partnership with Microsoft, especially the establishment of the development centre, the Vice President said: “I have always wondered how Microsoft can just be a much more effective partner with us as a country.
“Beginning with the African Development Centre which I think is excellent; I think it shows the commitment of Microsoft in developing the digital centre here in Nigeria. And it also shows the company’s confidence in the sort of talents that we have and the commitment of government to ensuring that we develop that talent in the best possible ways that we can.”
Assuring investors in the Nigerian economy of the commitment of the Buhari administration in creating the right environment for businesses to thrive, the Vice President said: “We are all working to create the right environment for innovation and creativity. That remains an issue that we are dealing with on a daily basis, and I think that the challenges are the challenges of the sort that we are going to have to be dealing with (in my view) even in the coming years.”
On his part, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Isa Pantami, said the federal government had already put in place the necessary structures to partner with Microsoft and other tech companies in developing Nigeria’s technology ecosystem.
He said the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy, the National Policy on E-governance, among others, had been adopted by the Buhari administration to support the growth of technology and innovation in the country.
The Microsoft boss proposed a 90-day timeline for stakeholders on the government side and from Microsoft, to iron out details of the various areas of collaboration.
Other participants at the meeting include Microsoft Corporation’s Country Manager for Nigeria and Ghana, Mr Akin Banuso, among others.
While Google Inc. in July 2020 announced plans to establish its first Google Launchpad Space outside the United States in Lagos, Facebook, in September of same year made public its decision to open an office in Lagos as part of its planned expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa. HUAWEI on the other hand last November promised the Vice President that the company would position Nigeria as a technology center for the African continent.