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Osinbajo Launches $600m Empowerment Programme For Youths




Osinbajo Launches $600m Empowerment Programme For Youths

Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has again launched an empowerment programme targeted at helping tech enthusiasts and creative youths in the country to improve the growth of innovation in Africa at large.

Naija News recalls that the number two citizen had chaired empowerment programmes such as TraderMoni, Market Moni and the N-Power program.

The President Muhammadu Buhari-led government initiative, which commenced in 2016, was targeted at empowering Nigerian youths to tackle issues of youth joblessness and improve the social development of young people in the country.

In the latest development, as contained in a statement released yesterday through his media aide, Laolu Akande, Osinbajo noted that the $600 million programme is meant for young Nigerians in the technology and creative sectors.

The statement contained the vice president’s address at the presidential launch of the Investment in Digital and Creative Enterprises (i-DICE) Programme, held on Monday at the State House Banquet Hall, Abuja, Naija News understands.

Osinbajo noted that the new initiative would support young Nigerians between the age of 15 and 35 who are entrepreneurs and involved in the early stages of creative, innovative and technology-enabled ventures.

“I think it is now imperative to commence a coordinated approach towards innovation on the continent, bringing together all stakeholders to coordinate efforts at scaling up investments and building programmes that provide the right enabling environment and produce talent pipelines that support the growth of innovation on the continent,” Osinbajo said in his keynote address at the event.

Under i-DICE, constraints such as access to capital and capacity limitation of Startups would be effectively addressed. But according to the VP, more needs to be done to scale up such programmes.

Osinbajo also admonished all African governments and the private sector to do more to support the growth of innovation in the continent.

He said: “The government must provide more support for startups and small businesses, and investors must provide more funding. This is why the Investment in Digital and Creative Enterprises Programme is important.”

Naija News understands that i-DICE is supported by funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB)-$170 million, the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB)-N70million and the Agence Française de Dévelopement-$116 million. There is also a federal government of Nigeria counterpart contribution of $45 million through the Bank of Industry loans for qualifying start-ups.

Speaking, however, on behalf of the Nigerian government, Osinbajo thanked the development partners for their collaboration. He commended the efforts of the development partners.

Osinbajo explained further that the programme’s design “supports innovation across very critical pillars including policy, infrastructure, access to finance and talent. These pillars have been identified as very critical to the growth and sustenance of innovation on the continent.”

The VP disclosed that “The total fund is $618 million, out of which the AFDB provides $170 million, the Agence Francaise de Development $116m and the Islamic Development Bank will provide $70 million in co-financing. Another $271 million is expected from the private sector and institutional investors.”

i-DICE Is Beyond Job Creation

According to Osinbajo, the i-DICE programme is beyond job creation, adding that it is a government initiative to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the digital tech and creative industries and is especially targeted at job creation.

The Nigerian Vice President observed that the launch of the (i-DICE) Programme was a significant milestone by the Nigerian government in its continued efforts to harness the potential of its youth population, creating more jobs.

Speaking about the Buhari administration’s efforts in supporting the growth in the tech and innovation sectors, the VP noted said: “As a government, we have consistently provided support to the innovation ecosystem over the last 8 years. In 2018, we established the Technology and Creativity Advisory Group. The Advisory Group brings together stakeholders in the technology and creative industries to contribute directly to policy formulation, articulation and the design of the technology and creative sectors of our economy.”

“The group has influenced various government policies for the economy’s growth. For instance, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, working with NITDA, has established a Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics; the Ministry has also led the coordination of our partnership with Microsoft to increase Nigeria’s technology talent pipeline by training 5 million Nigerians in various technology skills.”

Osinbajo recalled how President Buhari signed Nigeria’s Startup Bill into law, making it the Nigeria Startup Act and also highlighted the essence of collaboration between the private sector and government in scaling up such programmes.

He stated that there had been an influx of private capital which has enabled startups “to expand operations and create new jobs while contributing significantly towards overall GDP growth of the country. Of course, thousands of startups have used private funds or debt that goes unrecorded.”

The VP referenced Disrupt Africa’s 2022 Tech Funding Report, which indicated that “Nigeria was the best-funded country in Africa for the second year running, with a minimum of 180 startups, making up approximately 30% of Africa’s funded ventures, raising approximately $1billion – substantially ahead of all other countries on the continent on both counts.”

The vice president commended development partners for their support and thanked the AfDB president, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, for bringing the idea to fruition.

The president of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, who was also present at the event, commended the federal government’s commitment to the actualisation of the initiative, particularly the leadership of the VP in creating “the enabling environment for the development of start-ups, as well as position Nigeria as Africa’s leading digital technology centre.”

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Naija News understands that goodwill messages were delivered by the ministers of finance, budget and national planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; industry, trade and investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; science and technology, Sen. Adeleke Mamora; information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; the representative of the minister of communications and digital economy; the French Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. Emmanuelle Blatmann, and the representative of the managing director of the Bank of Industry, Olukayode Pitan.