Nigeria has begun a project aimed at using technology to tackle humanitarian crisis in the north east of the country where activities of the Boko Haram insurgents has led to the displacement of large number of people.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stated this at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja during the grant signing ceremony under the Growth and Employment, GEM, project to finance innovative micro, small and medium, MSME, technology firms.
He said the project is in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, the American University of Nigeria, Yola, Adamawa State, North East Nigeria and other institutions of higher learning.
Professor Osinbajo said the federal government’s proposed innovation hub for the North East would be in partnership with these organizations.
“The first step would be a Makerthon working with the ICRC’s Global Innovation Team, which will give an opportunity to internally displaced persons to be an active part of a process to provide solution to the problems they face daily using technology,” the vice president said.
According to him, the project would “give Nigeria an opportunity to work with international organizations to export humanitarian solutions to other parts of the world.”
Professor Osinbajo said the Nigerian government would be encouraging innovators to design technology for government and governance, for agriculture, infrastructure, health-care and other social services.
He said the grant signing ceremony was part of the Aso Villa Demo Day inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari during last year’s visit of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerback, to Nigeria, which brought together young innovators from across Nigeria.
He said the ceremony was the beginning of the federal government’s direct investments in MSME technology innovators.
According to Prof. Osinbajo, the 2016 and 2017 budgets provided for investments in technology hubs while 25, 000 young Nigerians are being trained in digital skills, including animation, code writing and building.
The Nigerian government distributed grants to 81 young entrepreneurs, under the Growth and Employment, GEM.
The GEM project is an initiative of the Nigerian government in partnership with the World Bank to promote the growth of business and high quality MSME enterprises in Nigeria.
The project was initiated in 2013 with the primary objective of increasing MSME growth and cross-sector employment across all regions in Nigeria and has disbursed over one billion naira to innovative entrepreneurs since it began.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr Okechukwu Enelamah, said the desire of government in the programme was to champion the cause of Nigeria’s MSMEs as a means of creating jobs and boosting growth within non-oil revenue generating sectors.
“Small businesses remain the key drivers of the Nigeria economy, contributing to three quarters of our labour force and accounting for close to half of Nigeria’s GDP,” Enelamah said.
He added “the acceleration of this sector is therefore positively correlated to our nation’s economic growth and advance.”
He said the MSMEs were key to addressing the pressing unemployment problems especially among the youth.
Enelamah said it was for this purpose that the GEM project was top priority for President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as it is focused on taclking the bottle necks that hamper the growth of MSMEs such as financing and access to basic skills and business training.
He said by providing a combination of grants, business development services, training and mentorship programmes, GEM is equipping some of Nigeria’s most promising MSMEs and is therefore critical to the ministry’s programmes.
Others who spoke at the ceremony were the Minister for Communication, and Information Technology, Adebayo Shittu, and Mr. Andy Gartside, who represented the Country Representative of the World Bank.
Source: Voice of Nigeria