Microsoft Nigeria New Office Launch
- Post by: Ahmad
- March 21, 2022
- Comments off
Keynote Speech Of Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), PhD, FNCS, FBCS, FIIM Honourable Minister of Communications And Digital Economy, Federal Republic Of Nigeria at the Microsoft Nigeria New Office Launch on 21st March, 2022
His Excellency, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu
Joy Chik, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Identity
Gafar Lawal, Managing Director, Microsoft Africa Development Centre, West Africa
All other dignitaries present
Gentlemen and Ladies of the Press
Ladies and Gentlemen
May Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon you!
On behalf of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, I am delighted to formally launch the new Microsoft Nigeria Office, which also houses the Africa Development Centre (ADC).
The citing of the Africa Development Centre in Nigeria shows the confidence that Microsoft has in Nigeria as a leading tech country on the continent and a worthy partner. I congratulate Microsoft Nigeria team and the global Microsoft team on this important achievement and thank you for partnering with Nigeria.
Nigeria as a Gateway to Africa Microsoft was incorporated in Nigeria 22 years ago and has partnering with both the public and the private sector over this period. We consider the launch of this Office and Centre as a landmark event that will accelerate the digital transformation, not just in the country, but also on the continent. The choice of Nigeria is very strategic for many reasons, including our location, population, economic status on the continent, our large pool of highly creative youth, and many more.
Nigeria is both a geographic and an economic gateway to sub-Saharan Africa. As a geographic gateway, we have a prime location between West and Central Africa. Partnership with Nigeria essentially gives investors access to close to 550 million people- over 200 million from Nigeria, another 200 million West Africans and about 150 million Central Africans.
On the economic front, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Report, Nigeria had a GDP of over $432 billion in 2020, making it the country with the highest GDP on the continent. As part of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), partnership with Nigeria also provides access to the largest free trade zone across the world- an area worth over US$3 trillion in GDP and one that eliminates tariffs on 90% of goods traded across the continent.
It is also noteworthy that Nigeria has a very young population, which has a median age of just 18.4 years, according to a 2021 Report by Statistica. This young population is also known for innovation and creativity and explains why Nigeria leads in several statistics on innovation on the continent. For example, according to Techibytes, as of June 2021, there were over 600 unicorns in the world, raising $442 billion in total and having a value of around $2 trillion.
Furthermore, as at January 2022, there were a total of 7 unicorns on the African continent, of which 5 have their roots in Nigeria’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Furthermore, according to data from “Africa: The Big Deal,” Nigerian startups raised $1.37b of the total $4billion raised by startups on the continents. All these statistics are no coincidence and they point to the fact that Nigeria remains one of the most, if not the most strategic tech partner on the continent.
NDEPS as a platform for fostering collaborations
One of my first assignments when I was appointed as the Minister for the tech sector was to send a proposal to Mr President on the urgent need for the mandate of the Ministry to be expanded to include a digital economy component, in line with global best practice.
Mr President graciously approved the request and this was endorsed by the Federal Executive Council. Following this approval, we developed the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a Digital Nigeria. NDEPS is built on 8-pillars and it provides the overarching policy for all efforts to develop Nigeria’s digital economy. It also outlines our areas of potential partnerships and provides a platform for fostering collaboration with leading institutions like Microsoft.
The facility that was launched today aligns with several of our pillars and I will mention a few of them. The first of these pillars is the Digital Literacy and Skills Pillar (Pillar #2). We have been promoting efforts to enable a paradigm shift from a focus on just paper qualifications to the right emphasis on skills. We believe this centre will provide such high-level and in demand skills for Nigerians. Effective capacity building also involves mentorship that we believe this Centre will also support in providing this. The impact of mentorship is evident in the success of Microsoft, as even Bill Gates attested to the importance of being mentored by Warren Buffet.
The Digital Society and Emerging Technologies (Pillar #7) and Digital Services Development and Promotion (Pillar #5) also represent areas of alignment with the activities of the ADC. It is note worthy that several of the main hard skills promoted in the Forth Industrial Revolution are expressed as emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Augumented Reality, Blockchain, etc.
We are happy that the activities at this Centre include an extensive use of these emerging technologies and it was interesting to read that your focus regarding the ADC is to ensure “local innovation, global impact (as you seek to) fuel AI, machine learning and mixed reality innovation."
We are sure that partnerships in these areas will be mutually beneficial to both Microsoft and the Nigerian government. Our National Centre for Artificial for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) can serve as one of the key locations for such partnerships. We also have programmes that utilise emerging technologies to solve national problems in agriculture, energy, education, etc. These are useful programmes for which Microsoft can further explore partnerships with Nigeria.
The Power of CSR and Triple Helix Partnerships
Our role as government is to create the right policy environment for our digital economy sector to thrive. We are open to investments and Corporate Social Responsibility efforts by institutions such as Microsoft. A Microsoft publication noted that “the ADC will be unlike any other existing investment on the continent. It will help us better listen to our customers, develop locally and scale for global impact. Beyond that, it’s an opportunity to engage further with partners, academia, governments and developers – driving impact in sectors important to the continent…" We are happy to hear this and look forward to a thriving partnership between the Federal Government, Microsoft and the academia.
CSR usually appears to be mainly beneficial to the recipients. However, this is not an accurate assessment, as recent research shows that it benefits the companies that provide such services. In particular, a survey by The Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility found that: 87% of respondents said they are more likely to buy products from a company that cares about CSR; 55% of respondents stated that they are willing to pay extra for companies with CSR plans; and 67% of correspondents will boycott brands with opposing social values.
On this note, I congratulate Microsoft for this strategic partnership with Nigeria and we thank you for your kind invitation. Thank you very much for your kind attention.