THE Federal Government has said it is creating an enabling environment for new businesses especially in the Information and Communication Technology sector, as no fewer than five start-ups, each of which is worth over $1bn, operate in Nigeria but are registered in other countries.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, who made this known at an interaction with the House of Representatives in Abuja on Tuesday, said Flutterwave, a Nigerian online banking firm, is now worth $3bn.
The Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, noted that the session was based on an executive bill on startups that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), forwarded to the National Assembly in March.
Ado-Doguwa was accompanied at the meeting by Deputy Leader, Peter Akpatason; Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata; and Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Abdulkadir Abdullahi, among others.
Pantami said, “Nigeria, as it is today, is the leader when it comes to the digital economy. We are leading in Africa. We have the largest digital economy. We have the most successful digital economy. For example, just consider unicorns: There are seven unicorns in Africa today. Five out of seven…their root is from Nigeria, meaning their origin is from Nigeria, out of seven. There is only one in Senegal and the other one in Egypt. But five of them are from Nigeria.
“A unicorn is a startup or a company that has a minimum value of $1bn. So, there are seven now in Africa and five of them have origins in Nigeria. Some of them, because of the lack of an enabling environment, their offices are here in Nigeria, and their activities are here, but they will go to other countries and register there.
“Why? (It is) because there is no coordination here and there is no law to protect the business. So, the business is being conducted in Nigeria; they are Nigerians, they employ Nigerians, they get their profits from Nigeria largely but, yet, they decide to go to another country, for example, where there is a law to protect what they do.”
The minister added, “So, in order to address this challenge, we must come together to provide the enabling environment that they need. I was in Lagos to have that discussion with them in line with this bill and other government initiatives. One of them started only in 2018 – Flutterwave, by 2022 its value reached up to $3bn, the largest in Africa. They only started in 2018 and they are still in Lagos.
“Because of this, there is the need for us to work together, representing the same government – the legislative and the executive – to see what we can do to provide the enabling environment they need. There are many younger ones that are coming up. If we fail to address the challenge, they could decide to go somewhere.”
In the cover letter on the bill dated February 21, 2022, Buhari explained that the Startup Bill seeks to position the country’s startup ecosystem and to establish a National Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship.