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Enterprise: Digitalising MSMEs will drive sustainable growth in Nigeria –Inuwa, NITDA DG

Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, Director-General of NITDA (4th from tight) in a Group Photograph with the DBN Team and Other Guests at the Bank's   2023 Annual Lecture Series, in Abuja, FCT        Photo: NITDA

*Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, affirms the sustenance of NIgerian economy relies heavily on enterprises in regard to  customer satisfaction, advertising and payments, in view of improved digitalisation in modern businesses

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

In view of the critical roles digitalisation and technology play in optimising business operations in the 21st Century, Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has averred that digitising Nigeria’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) will drive the needed sustainable economic growth.

The Information Technology (IT) sector regulatory agency Friday, December 1, 2023, stated Inuwa disclosed this while delivering a Keynote Address on the theme: “Digital Nigeria – Leveraging Technology to Improve Ease of Doing Business for MSMES” at the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) 2023 Annual Lecture series, in Abuja, FCT.

On application of technology in businesses, social service delivery

The Director-General of NITDA, who noted that technology innovation is occurring at an exponential pace and businesses are increasingly recognising and leveraging technology for growth, quoted a 2020 PwC MSME survey which states that MSMES account for about 96 percent of all businesses in Nigeria; contribute 49% of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP); and employ 84 percent of the country’s workforce.

Inuwa equally took his audience through the process of starting a business, as he stressed that technology has helped the government to provide an easy way for anyone to register a business from anywhere, within 24 hours.

This, he said, is quite unlike the past when one would need to travel to Abuja from states for the same purpose.

The Director-General also stated: “As a government we have the responsibility to carry everyone along, especially when it comes to inclusivity or access to digital infrastructure. It is no longer a privilege but a necessity.

“With the way we are increasingly using systems to make decisions and a whole lot of things, there is a need to carry every along as we cannot afford to be left behind in Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world.”

He further stated: “We are rounding off with legal framework that will make it easier for investors to come and invest in digital public infrastructure because this will make it a lot easier for SMEs would aid automation of governance.

“Nigeria has the largest vibrant tech ecosystem in Africa as the country is leading so far in unicorn counts on the continent with five of the seven known unicorns originating in Nigeria,” Inuwa asserted.

The power of techs in business transformation, improved Nigerian economy

According to Inuwa, sustenance of Nigeria’s economy, Inuwa stressed, relies heavily on enterprises, given the the fact the trajectory of customer satisfaction, advertising and payment are results of the increased attention turned to digitalisation in today’s businesses.

He explained: “MSMEs that have embraced digitalisation and technology tend to fare better and that underscores a study done in Turkey which shows that 41.2% of 131 SMEs underwent technological innovations and this led to an operational efficiency of 96.9%.

“With the power of technology, you start small but in the long run, you will definitely grow exponentially, if you continue to add value to your business, of course.”

Painting a picture of what the MSMEs in Nigeria could add to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through digitisation, the Director-General of NITDA then, appealed to the Development Bank of Nigeria to also consider giving Startups access to funds as they do MSMEs.

The two, he noted, are basically the same, with the only difference being their nomenclatures.

Inuwa assured the stakeholders: “If all SMEs in Nigeria can digitise today, we can add $60 billion by just leveraging technology.

“Recent research has shown that any MSME that transformed digitally could increase its revenue by 26% and reduce costs by 22%.”

The NITDA Chief Executive, who highlighted the agency’s seven-point Strategic Roadmap Pillars, disclosed the Federal Government is committed to digitally transforming the economy.

“Today, we collaborate more with western countries than our neighbours, this shows that we are the next frontier when it comes to digital economy, Inuwa stated.

He also harped on the need to foster collaborations with key development partners and build strong institutions so as to deliver and execute all the digital visions in Nigeria.

According to him, the focus of the digital vision remains to uplift Nigeria through digital transformation and innovation.

Startups, MSMEs are engine room for digital transformation and innovation: Inuwa

The Director-General asserted: Start-ups and MSMES are the engine room for digital transformation and innovation.

“Therefore, I want to encourage DBN to keep up the good work, and receive the need to include tech startups in all your funding schemes.”

Earlier in his welcome speech, Dr. Tony Okpanachi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Development Bank of Nigeria, had alluded to the fact that the discovery of the Internet and its impact on human interaction and commerce have changed the dynamics of human coexistence.

Dr. Okpanachi noted that Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social platforms, which started as a means of interaction between people, now have commercial and advertising nodes to them, promoting not just social exchange, but also fulfilling an economic need through hyperlinking, interactivity and multimodality.

The CEO of DBN disclosed that although the Internet penetration is still at 55.4 percent in Nigeria, according to DataReportal’s report, this suggests that there were 122.5 million internet users in Nigeria as of January 2023.

He said there is a strong need to plot how extant technology, and the new upcoming ones could be used to strengthen the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria, which sits at 131 out of 190 economies, on the Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) Rank.

“While issues like security, and poor infrastructure have bedeviled the country for so long, the country must look to other means that transcend these major roadblocks, one of which is technology, and a digitised business environment.

“MSMEs in Nigeria play a crucial role in economic growth, poverty reduction, employment creation, as well as shared wealth creation and by leveraging technology within their operations, companies can improve their efficiencies, which is one of the roadblocks to doing business in Nigeria,” Okpanachi noted.

The CEO affirmed that the DBN’s Annual Lecture Series is a platform that advocates for MSME financing in Nigeria, and leads the conversation on how technology can drive innovation, resilience, and profitability for MSMEs.

NITDA said the fourth DBN Annual Lecture hybrid event marked the bank’s 6th Anniversary and to celebrate the milestone.

The Bank’s Lecture featured speakers drawn from a range of subject matter expertise, comprising public sector, academia, development economics, financial services, and entrepreneurship.

The event, the agency said, also featured keynotes and panel sessions, where the facilitators shared their perspectives on how to drive sustainable business growth with technology that adapts to a green economy in the West African country.

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