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Nigeria targets three unicorns in 2023 as DCO tasks members on 30 million jobs

By Adeyemi Adepetun
07 February 2023   |   4:05 am
Nigeria is hoping to create additional three unicorns by the end of 2023, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, has said.

• Group wants digital economy to contribute 30% of global GDP
• Ghana, Gambia become new members of DCO

Nigeria is hoping to create additional three unicorns by the end of 2023, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, has said.

Unicorn refers to a privately held start-up company with a value of over $1 billion. It is commonly used in the venture capital industry.

Pantami, who stated this in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, yesterday, at the ongoing LEAP tech conference and second General Assembly of Digital Cooperation Organisation (DCO), said currently, out of the seven unicorns from Africa, Nigeria has five.

According to him, going by the current paradigm shift strategy of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the country is looking at skilled people that would emerge as job creators.

He said: “The paradigm shift is to combine skills with degrees and develop the economy digitally. There are two pillars of the digital economy: they are digital innovators and digital entrepreneurs. Through these pillars, we are creating job creators. There are currently 161 initiatives of the current regime of President Buhari, which are targeted at Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria. We are eliminating obstacles to business development, such as multiple taxation. But we are prioritising seed funding and protection of intellectual properties.

“The Nigerian Start-up Act is another important legislation, which the country is also banking on to develop the start-up ecosystem. Though we have five of the seven unicorns in Africa from Nigeria, by the end of the year, we hope to have additional three by supporting the growths of start-ups in the country by all means possible.”

MEANWHILE, the DCO has set an ambitious target, which is expected to see efforts of member countries propelling digital economy to contribute 30 per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 30 million jobs by 2030.

Secretary-General of DCO, Deemah AlYahya, who said this is the focus of the ‘DCO 2030 Roadmap,’ unveiled at the forum, noted that by fostering and facilitating digital cooperation and expediting digital transformation across all sectors, “we can unlock the full growth potential of the global digital economy. We aspire to achieve ‘30 by 30’, an ambitious future where the digital economy could contribute 30 per cent of the global GDP and create 30 million jobs by 2030. This endeavour demands the collective effort of all stakeholders in the digital economy, to attain the digital prosperity we aspire to.”

The DCO is a global multilateral body that aims to enable digital prosperity for all by accelerating inclusive growth of the digital economy.

Member countries of the DCO are Bahrain, Cyprus, Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Rwanda, and Saudi Arabia. This year, Ghana and Gambia joined the assembly, increasing the membership to 13.

AlYahya, who said the organisation now represents 13 nations and serves around 600 million people with a collective GDP of more than $2 trillion, reaffirmed the importance of multilateral cooperation to encourage sustainable and inclusive growth of the digital economy.

She said DCO acknowledged the role of multilateralism as an enabler of digital inclusion and transformation and a facilitator for exchanging knowledge and active dialogues, especially in driving global digital economy.

According to her, empowering entrepreneurs and MSMEs, which make up over 90 per cent of all businesses, is crucial for their success and growth in a dynamic digital economy.

AlYahya said in the efforts to build an agile, efficient, and relevant organisation, the ministers and government representatives of the DCO adopted the new Organisation Bylaws that will streamline operations of the organisation and effectively supersede the previously approved Governance Guidebook of 2021; established and elected the DCO Executive Committee, mandated with roles and responsibilities stipulated in the Bylaws; established the DCO Observers Committee, as proposed by the Secretary-General.

She said this is a way forward to allow for co-creation and co-design of joint initiatives between observers and member states, to drive greater digital prosperity for all.

The Secretary-General said the body voted in favour of forming the Striden Association, as described in her proposal. She said this initiative would play a pivotal role in catalysing the growth of MSMEs and start-ups within and between member states. In addition, she said the Association will act as a facilitator between the public and private sectors, to make available needed insights and interventions.

On the DCO 2030 Roadmap, AlYahya said COVID-19 pandemic brought to light paramount significance of the digital economy across various sectors, including education, health, manufacturing, and beyond. She added that digital transformation for governments, industries and MSMEs accelerated during the pandemic, “and we need to ensure positive and long-lasting impact of these changes.”

On the DCO challenge, Pantami said the country has much to contribute. He said Nigeria and Pakistan, among DCO member countries, have the highest population.

“So, by implication, we should work harder, leveraging on our populations to meet that target. Secondly, we should leverage on Nigeria’s start-ups’ development and harness talents in the country,” he said.