On World Creativity and Innovation Day, by Kashifu Inuwa
Thank you for coming. It is truly a pleasure and privilege to have you this afternoon. Today is a double celebration of NITDA’s 20th Anniversary and World Creativity and Innovation Day. It is an International Creativity and Innovation Day recognised by the United Nations and designated to celebrate creativity and innovation as well as raise awareness of the importance of creativity and innovation in problem solving to advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The UN recognises the importance of creativity and innovation to humanity, hence designated the 21st of April as the World Creativity and Innovation Day. The celebration started four years ago, on the 21st of April 2018.
Innovation is a vital key to the prosperity of any nation, and our prospects for future economic growth largely hinges on our ability to innovate. Innovation is the ability to invent and drive those inventions towards commercialisation and job creation. It is not surprising that the wealthier nations lead in innovation. Even emerging superpowers like China are now reaping the benefits of their technology-innovation initiatives and policies.
Innovations, particularly market-creating innovations, have the potential to transform nations and lift them out of poverty. Market-creating innovation pulls infrastructure and investments that can transform the economy and create prosperity. We learned from history how Henry Ford introduced the Ford Model T in the United States and the transformation it brought to America. Likewise, just about twenty years ago, when Mo Ibrahim started Celtel in Africa, people laughed at him that he will fail. Here we are, today, the telecommunications industry is the most vibrant economic sector on the continent. It has transformed societies and provided jobs to millions of citizens by creating new markets and opportunities.
The Nigerian digital innovation space is making waves on the African continent and beyond. According to a report by the Startup Genome and a survey on Nigerian Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs), there are about 6,500 MSMEs, some in the digital space, with Lagos having about 700 digital innovation registered businesses worth over $2 billion. It is also noteworthy that Nigeria’s bustling fintech ecosystem, with over 200 fintech standalone companies, has attracted global attention and venture capital investment.
At NITDA, we have identified innovation as a critical tool for implementing the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS). We have taken bold steps to drive our nation’s prosperity by boosting digital innovation and entrepreneurship.
Today, we celebrate this day within the National Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics premises, one of our initiatives to drive technology and market-creating innovations through the use of emerging technologies.
The National Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics is purposely built to drive cutting-edge innovations in emerging technologies through robust research and development programs. Of course, we plan to boost innovation-driven enterprises (IDEs) through innovations, thereby creating many jobs for Nigeria’s teeming youths.
We are deeply committed to fostering digital innovation culture among Nigerians. We have several programs and initiatives aimed at boosting the innovative capacity of our youths, which include catch-them-young programs targeted at orienting Nigerian kids to become active players in the digital technology space.
We are recalibrating our activities to focus on strengthening the Innovation ecosystem, promoting the adoption of emerging technologies for sustainable development, digital job creation, and promoting Nigerian content development and adoption.
In line with our goals of strengthening the innovation ecosystem, we drive catalytic programs, like hackathons and innovation challenges that will foster innovation culture. It will also enhance the hubs, where innovative ideas are conceptualised and nurtured. Our programmes are designed to build innovation and entrepreneurship capabilities across Nigeria.
Some of our key initiatives specifically designed to support the innovation ecosystem are Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support (TIES) Scheme, Bridge to MassChallenge Nigeria and MIT-REAP Abuja. Another laudable project we initiated is the Entrepreneurship Mentoring Initiative (EMI), designed to provide mentorship services to Nigerian innovators and entrepreneurs.
Our drive towards building a robust framework and infrastructure to bolster technology innovation for all Nigerians has the firm and usual support of the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim [Pantami], FNCS, FBCS, FIIM, MCPN. The Honourable Minister, who formulated the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for Digital Nigeria, is also championing many initiatives and policies that will ignite innovation activities and create wealth and prosperity for our citizens.
Once again, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to this double celebration of NITDA @ 20 and World Creativity and Innovation Day.
Kashifu Inuwa is Director General National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)