By Etuka Sunday
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, the Minister of the FCT, Mohammed Musa Bello, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, the Executive Vice-Chairman Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, and the Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mr Mr Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi and twenty others are to lead the Advisory Board of the Abuja Team for Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP), promoted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
MIT-REAP was part of Federal Government’s plans to leverage on Information Communications Technology (ICT) and Entrepreneurship skills as a way of addressing the increasing unemployment Rate in the country.
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami who disclosed this in Abuja while inaugurating members of the Board said, the undertaking was inspired by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s fight against Poverty and his focus on Economic Development.
As planned, the DG, NITDA, Mr Kashifu Inuwa who has been advocating for the adoption of digital technological skills in the educational sector was made one of the Co-Champions.
Dr. Pantami while analysing the number of graduates to that of the limited job vacancies in the country, disclosed that government employs 77,000 workforce.
“As you all know we have a huge challenge in Nigeria which is unemployment students are graduating everyday many are been admitted into our universities every day but jobs vacancies are very limited.
Some graduateed 15,10 years ago are still in the labour market if you look at the total number of our graduates and the limited employment opportunities we have we will discover that the big strategy is to focus on entrepreneurs and this is the only way out.
“Only last week,I read 1.9 million person are going to sit for JAMB examination when they grauduate, therefore let’s assume that I million get admitted and eight hundred thousand grauduate on time ,where are you going to accommodate only grauduate of one year.I had a discussion with the Head of Service and asked her what’s the total number of civil servants in Nigeria she said seventy seven thousand (77,000 ),”
The Minister said, although the focus was officially Abuja, the project would be replicated in all the states of the Federation.
“I must emphasize, at this point, that while the focus of this is officially Abuja, the aims of this project transcend the FCT; and this is being done for Nigeria as a whole. The learnings and principles applied through REAP, are transferable to any town, city, state or region of this dear nation of ours. And so it should be,” he said.
Pantami said, “in 2018, after a period of evaluating options on programmes that could help deepen the emerging innovativeness that we had observed among our youth; and catalyse economic growth and impact therein, a team of us decided that the REAP programme offered by MIT offered the best proven example of such. In January 2019, we decided to make the application to MIT as Team Abuja.
“Lagos had previously undergone REAP and, arguably, there have been benefits to its ecosystem; but little direct carry-over to the rest of the country. Therefore, there is an implicit aim, this time to make the effort more inclusive, even if doing the programme for Nigeria as a whole would have been too cumbersome.
“A few months later, in May, MIT accepted Abuja’s application to embark on the programme after a competitive assessment of bidding regions from all over the world.
“Abuja is joined in REAP’s 7th Cohort by teams from regions in Denmark, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan (ROC). The Lagos team had colleagues from Canada, Iceland, Peru, Spain and the UAE; attesting to the importance that the world places on creating innovation driven ecosystems, and our aspiration to operate at global best standards,” he said.
According to him, the main purpose of the programme was to adopt, and adapt, MIT’s proven frameworks on accelerating innovation to create localized strategies for developing and sustaining enterprises driven by innovation (IDEs).
He said, “Lagos, for example, has inspired Abuja and other cities around the country to develop fledgling innovation hubs focused around various industries, like ICT, Retail, Fintech, Construction and Agribusiness. To this end, Abuja has emerged and is indeed recognized as a Tier 2 African Innovation Hub.
“I have humbly taken up the role as Champion of the Abuja Team and have with me a talented group of people with varied but valuable backgrounds that have kept working hard towards implementing REAP for Abuja.
The partnership emanated from building a team; and to that extent I am grateful for the presence here of my brothers, the Honourable Minister for the FCT, our Chief Host and keen supporter, my Co-Champion, The Executive Secretary PEF(M)B and the DG NITDA, whose organisations shall spearhead the government stakeholder engagement,” he said.