Stakeholders in Nigeria’s information and communications technology sector have expressed confidence that beyond achieving the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, Africa could succeed in having a single digital market by 2030 if all hands are on deck to build infrastructure that would position the Continent as the top destination for digital investment.
This was the central discussion among the industry players participating at the ongoing virtual conference themed “Harnessing Digital Technologies for Economic Expansion under AfCFTA,” organised by the National Action Committee on the African Continental Free Trade Area.
The conference, which started on Thursday and will last for Friday (today), featured presentation from Ernest Ndukwe, the Chairman of MTN Nigeria who said: “The 4th industrial revolution is a catalyst for Africa’s development as it fuels digital, biological and physical world.”
Ndukwe advised Nigerian players in the AfCFTA market to leverage on the digital revolution to ensure the maximum benefits abound in the single continental market.
PwC’s Senior Manager, Technology, Alfred Yadua, told the participants that in order to benefit maximally from the AfCFTA, Nigeria “need to up skill our youth population, create job opportunities and export their services and ICT products to the rest of Africa.”
Stressing the role of knowledge economy in the success of the AfCFTA market, the Director General of the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi, represented by Barr. Kasim Sodangi, said human capital resources remain Nigeria’s greatest export, adding “we need to develop our human capital to position Nigeria to provide ICT services to the rest of Africa in order to expand our economy.”
“With over 200 million subscribers currently in Nigeria, the communication industry remains the most dynamic and vital to all other industries,” said Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) represented by Yetunde Akinloye.
In his presentation, Ayotunde Coker, the Managing Director/CEO of Rack Center told the participants that Nigeria needed to kick start enabling actions that will drive the growth of her digital infrastructure and position her as the top destination for digital investment in Africa.
Coker, who observed that internet user population is a key driver for Nigeria’s digital economy, believed that: “Nigeria is positioned to be the pivot for the digital revolution in Africa.”
Speaking on the need to integrate social concerns into the programmes of the AfCFTA, Country Head of Master Card Foundation, Mrs. Chidimma Lawanson, said the impact of intra-African trade on the Continent’s economy goes beyond trade and finance as it ensures that social needs are met as well, adding “We can only grow our economy by building the capacity of our MSMEs.”
On regulatory concerns, the Director of Trade, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Aliyu Abubakar, observed that: “We need to ensure that our digital infrastructure and trade policies are updated to ensure that we compete favourably with sister nations in the Free Trade Area.”