VP Yemi Osinbajo visits Silicon Valley and Hollywood. What’s in it for us?

It’s no longer news that last week, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and a host of professionals from the Nigerian private and public sectors paid a working visit to the US to woo investors to Nigeria. During his trip he met with big players in the US technology and entertainment sectors such as Tim Kendall, former President of visual discovery tool Pinterest; Chika Nwobi and Tom Terbell, partners at Rise Capital – a private equity firm specializing in early venture and later stage investments, particularly in the internet-enabled sector in emerging markets; Allen Blue, Co-founder of LinkedIn; Google CEO, Sundar Pichai; top Hollywood executives from major movie studios such as Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Lions Gate, IMAX Entertainment, Warner Bros, Walt Disney; and representatives from the National Association of Theatre Owners, Fox Network and BET International.

This visit is particularly interesting for two reasons. First, there is no record of any meeting between VP Osinbajo and any official from the Trump administration. The companies represented in this visit are not state-owned, but private companies, some of which are richer than many African countries. They are profit-driven and are not as bureaucratic as state-owned companies are. Second, with this visit, we are seeing the current administration’s continued effort to look beyond oil to developing other areas of the Nigerian economy. This was a calculated visit to market Nigeria’s creative sector to global investors and to grow her digital economy by attracting notable investments to fix her infrastructure.

From a reliable source, key reasons for the visit were:

  • To raise awareness for Nigeria’s digital economy and creative sector
  • To elaborate on advances made on the ease of doing business in Nigeria
  • To inform potential investors about the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), which is directly in charge of providing data on the Nigerian economy, investment climate, legal and regulatory framework as well as sector and industry-specific information. According to the Commission’s Director, Strategic Communication, NIPC recently launched an up-to-date online portal – iGuide Nigeria – “to provide investors with information on starting a business, labor, production factors, land, taxes, investor rights, growth sectors, and opportunities.”
  • To show advances in the Nigerian tech and creative community through the formation of a Technology and Creativity Advisory Group
  • To showcase tech startups in Nigeria that are creating solutions to solve Nigeria’s problems. Ten leading Nigerian startups that accompanied the delegation on the trip pitched their ideas to the global investors.

Common issues raised by potential investors in Nigeria relate to the ease of doing business here. The World Bank’s 2018 Ease of Doing Business report ranks Nigeria 145 out of 190 countries. Although this latest ranking was an improvement from last year’s, there are still fears about the business environment. Issues such as Intellectual Property theft and lack of investment guarantee are some of the reasons why many investors have avoided Nigeria in the past. This visit was thus an opportunity for the current administration to address these concerns and try to allay the fears of willing and potential investors by assuring them of Nigeria’s openness for business. VP Osinbajo had this to say concerning these issues:

So what we have done so far is that we’ve been looking at what the specific issues are, and there are quite a few. There are those who want to know about what we are doing in terms of Intellectual Property protection, investment guarantee, and all of that. But I think the most important thing really, is that we have a government and a lot of those who work in our agencies, who are determined to work through this, day by day, piece by piece to make sure that we get our environment right, and we get the right type of investment environment.

If you recall, last month VP Osinbajo inaugurated a Technology and Creativity Advisory Group, which was established by President Muhammadu Buhari, consisting of 50 key players from the nation’s technology and creative sectors. These individuals were tasked with “providing an inclusive and all-embracing roadmap to promote the technology and creative sectors of the economy in order to create jobs while also improving the wellbeing of Nigerians”. Based on this mandate, it is fitting to assume that this trip was one of the group’s ideas.

The Buhari administration recognizes the potential of the technology sector to contribute immensely to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with the digital economy projected to generate $88 billion and create three million jobs for Nigerians before the end of 2021. Nigeria’s creative sector is currently estimated at $4 billion and is projected to hit $6.4 billion also by 2021. In the quest to diversify her economy from the oil sector, Nigeria’s large youth population is essential to actualizing this goal. However, these goals cannot be met with our current state of infrastructure. Nigeria must improve her internet connectivity and ensure that data is affordable for her mostly large youth population to benefit from the internet.

To achieve this, there has to be competition between internet service providers (ISPs) in Nigeria. Presently, we now have companies such as wifi.com.ng competing with bigger telecommunications companies like MTN and Globacom to provide unlimited internet access at affordable prices for Nigerians, however, coverage remains a major issue. This is an area where global companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook can focus strongly on in Nigeria as they have done in other African countries such as Ghana, Uganda, South Africa and Kenya.

Photo Credit: @novoisioro via @buharisallau

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Fortune Chuku

Fortune Chuku is an IT Consultant and Researcher. He is passionate about education and entrepreneurship.