President Buhari: Nigeria ready to lead Africa’s digital tech race

President Muhammadu Buhari speaks during the All Progressive Congress national convention in Abuja, on March 26, 2022. The Coalition for Democracy and Sustainable Development (CDSD) has commended the successful outcome of the convention. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed the readiness of Nigeria to lead the digital technology aspiration of the 54 African countries.

This is just as Microsoft opened its first engineering hub, the African Development Centre worth $200 million, in Abuja.

Speaking yesterday at the State House, Abuja, while playing host to the President of Microsoft Corporation, Brad Smith, accompanied by the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Pantami, the President said Nigeria “is ready to welcome more initiatives and investments in digital technology,” while appreciating Microsoft for an engineering hub, worth $200 million.

Buhari said: “I have been informed that the African Development Centre in Nigeria is Microsoft’s first engineering hub in Africa as the current investment stands at about $200 million.

“I have also been informed of Microsoft’s skilling initiative that aims to train five million citizens and provide 27,000 jobs over the next three years. These initiatives are commendable and I urge you to expand them and continue to prioritise Nigeria as you roll out your global initiatives.”

President Buhari told the visiting Microsoft team that as the largest economy and most populous country in Africa, Nigeria was positioned to play a strategic role in the global technology ecosystem and seek the right partnerships to harness the potentials.

He said one of such key partnerships was in the area of capacity building. According to him, his administration has shown great commitment to providing a conducive environment for investors and Nigeria’s massive jump in the Global Ease of Doing Business Ranking was a proof that the efforts were yielding positive results.

The Nigerian President said: “Our emphasis on the development of our Digital Economy has also positioned the sector as a prominent factor in the Nigerian economy. As the fastest growing sector of the Nigerian economy in 2020, the Information and Communications Technology sector played a very important role in supporting our country to exit the recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We are keen about building on the momentum as we continue to implement our National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, along with other related policies.”

Apart from partnership in the area of skills building, President Buhari said he looked forward to further partnerships that would support the digital infrastructure and innovation ecosystem, with regard to emerging technologies: “I believe that this meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss how the Nigerian government can support the growth of your business here and how Microsoft can contribute to the growth of our economy through the active support of our policies and programmes.”

Buhari said he launched the Nigerian National Broadband Plan on the 19th of March 2020, with the aim of expanding broadband access across Nigeria and Microsoft’s connectivity initiative aligns with the plan.

He said, “I believe it would be very useful and mutually beneficial to both Microsoft and Nigeria if your connectivity project is expanded beyond the current four locations in this country.

“Emerging technologies play a key role in digital transformation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and a number of indigenous companies have developed very useful solutions. We are willing to partner with Microsoft to make Nigeria the epicenter for innovative emerging technology in Africa.”

The President commended the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and all industry stakeholders for their support for the sector.

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He said: “In order to sustain the momentum, I further direct that you and other stakeholders in the technology ecosystem keep the government fully informed of your ongoing and proposed activities that support the growth of our digital economy.

“We have the potential of becoming your most lucrative market in Africa. As such, we urge you to continue to support the development of our digital economy. We also urge you to step up your Corporate Social Responsibility programmes and support for Research and Development that will enhance your services in Nigeria and on the African continent.”

Earlier in his remarks, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy said he represented President Buhari at the inauguration of the African Development Centre, adding that Microsoft had over 200 Nigerians working for them in Nigeria and in Seattle.

Pantami noted that 320,000 Nigerians had also been trained on digital skills by the technology company.

On his part, the President of Microsoft and Vice Executive Chairman said the company would keep creating jobs to help build technology that would change the world, noting that the “multi-tasking approach” also stretches to digital infrastructure.

“We pledge to train five million people in Nigeria in the future,” Smith said, noting “60,000 people had already enrolled for courses while 300,000 had completed various courses,” said the’ Microsoft President.

Smith said the company had gone into partnership with other companies to increase Internet and broadband penetration, while efforts had been advanced in innovating technology that would fight corruption and preserve cultural heritages, like languages.

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