Tech Competitions and Sustainable Startup Ecosystem in Nigeria, by Zeenat O. Sambo

NEWS DIGEST – The concept of technological innovation is an extension of innovation. This is the means of identifying technology as a source of innovation for market competitiveness by an organization or group where they constructively build a technical device to reflect the improvement of business value called startup.

Startups are young companies or innovators that digitally develop unique product or services, bring it to market and make them irresistible and irreplaceable to customers. They are often formed to discover and resolve issues with existing products or to invent entirely new categories with technology.

Simply put, it is a means of introducing easy approaches to thinking and doing business across entire industries technically.

Over the years in Nigeria, the effort of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to sustain awareness of developing startups and to enhance digital innovations in the ecosystem has attracted international companies to set up competitive ventures enabling indigenous innovators to compete favourably in the global sphere.

When startups participate in tech competitions they get the chance to pitch their innovations to investors for cash prizes or investment capital. This inclusion makes startups access to several investors at once to raise capital to launch their innovations.

Although, tech startups require a lot of time and resources to develop with funding as a major struggle but participating in a startup competition is a worthy investment for participants to source capital.

In recent times, the effort to encourage local startups to engage in competitions as an opportunity to advance and achieve their goals is now an established phenomenon where competitions with numerous investments and rewards are often available for young innovators to succeed in the realm of technology.

It was a remarkable experience for startups to be part of the recent World Creativity and Innovation Day (WCID 2022) commemorative activities organized by NITDA. The theme “Creativity and Innovation: Powering Collaboration for a Sustainable Digital Economy”, provided access for startups to pitch their ideas and use the platform to revamp their innovations into marketable solutions.

NITDA, alongside its subsidiaries National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) and the Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI), has organised numerous hackathons and competitions to promote Nigeria’s digital innovation and entrepreneurship agenda. Such initiatives have helped to expand the agency’s advocacy for digital inclusion amongst Nigerian youth.

Another great opportunity for Nigerian tech startups is the request for applications from African startups to participate in the GITEX 2022 North Star Pitch Competition organized by the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) from 10th – 13th October 2022. A final shortlist of the four most innovative startups will enjoy full sponsorship to participate in the competition.

The global initiative is designed to support startup innovations across various sectors in Africa and get some of the continent’s brightest innovators to join their peers from other parts of the world to shape the new global digital economy.

To crown, the effort of NITDA and its subsidiaries, the introduction of digital innovations, and global exposure have drawn numerous international companies to invest in and sustain funding for young startups and entrepreneurs.

In this regard, the latest call for applications by Mobility54, a Corporate Venture Capital of Toyota Tsusho and the CFAO group, is another step up for the startup ecosystem. This organization is inviting innovative African startups to apply for its 2022 Digital Transformation Challenge.

The venture capital firm is seeking innovative solutions in five investment areas, including logistics, transport, mobility marketplaces, mobility fintech, and mobility carbon neutral.

Several tech competitions have provided opportunities for startups in Nigeria to connect with global tech companies and investors periodically.

About three days ago, a Nigerian fintech startup, Shecluded, emerged as the overall winner of the US-backed SelectUSA tech pitch competition for Nigerian female-led tech startups interested in expanding their business operations into the United State.

Ifeoma Uddoh, the founder of Shecluded, a company dedicated to bridging financial inclusion for women of colour, has been awarded a complimentary ticket to attend the annual SelectUSA Investment Summit to hold in Washington on June 26, 2022, with the opportunity to participate in the Regional, Middle East and Africa Pitch event.

On 21st April 2022, five startups emerged tops at a pitch session which formed part of activities to mark the WCID 2022 organised by NITDA. The five finalists Went home with prize money ranging from N2 million to N5000, 000 to support and further their innovations.

Recall also that three Nigerian startups had won about $25,000 in the U.S.-Africa Business Centre’s Digital Entrepreneurship Competition in December 2020. These are just a few among the many young Nigerian startups garnering awards and financial prizes in different tech competitions to push their innovations into the global market.

In addition, the Federal Government of Nigeria received $50 million as a startup investment fund, after it sponsored 10 tech startups at GITEX 2020 summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and its agencies, especially NITDA, are helping to reposition Nigeria as a lucrative hub for investments in Startups. it demands a collective effort by all stakeholders in the startup ecosystem to raise awareness through a sustained media campaign to encourage indigenous innovators to participate in pitch competitions.

With NITDA branches spread across the country, the agency can organise competitions for innovators operating outside the urban cities. Through this approach, more Innovation-Driven Enterprises (IDEs) will emerge with innovative solutions to create wealth and prosperity for the country.

Zeenat Sambo writes from Wuye District Abuja

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