At 4 am on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerged as Nigeria’s President-elect. While the legitimacy of the elections remains in question, it’s worth examining Tinubu’s technology sector plans to gain insight into what we can expect if his electoral victory stands.

In October 2022, the former two-time governor of Lagos State unveiled an 80-page manifesto that Future Africa founder Iyinoluwa Aboyeji presented at a business summit in Lagos. The manifesto features a dedicated section on the tech ecosystem entitled “The Digital Economy: Taking Advantage of The Fourth Industrial Revolution” [pdf]. It outlines seven key areas, including service provision and outsourcing, manufacturing, e-commerce, and blockchain.

“A Tinubu administration will strive to create one million new jobs in the ICT sector within its first 24 months [by deploying] new technologies that can fast-track business growth and diversification,” the manifesto declares. This claim sounds impressive, but how, exactly, will it be accomplished?

Tinubu’s manifesto proposes “policies that will train and build capacity among Nigeria’s large and youthful population,” enabling them to offer outsourcing services like India. However, the question of infrastructure and who provides access to training – private entities or the government – remains unanswered. Will the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund template established by the one-term governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, in 2016 be replicated at the federal level, or will the incoming administration design a new policy?

Some startups in the country have had to alter their business models over time due to government policies, such as how Lagos state curtailed the business of bike-hailing startups. The manifesto makes no mention of how it plans to partner with states to ensure that its policies are not just federal, but statewide.

The Tinubu manifesto also promises to develop Nigeria’s e-commerce sector by upgrading the transportation infrastructure in the country, which would benefit the industry. However, it fails to address how the administration plans to tackle external factors that pose a challenge to the widespread adoption of e-commerce in Nigeria.

The manifesto further states that the administration will champion tech manufacturing as it “presents another important opportunity for job creation in Nigeria,” noting that the importation of smartphones, which costs the country millions of dollars, will be substituted with “local assembly presented by the tech manufacturing sector.” With Nigeria’s manufacturing production increasing by 9.40 per cent in June 2022 over the same month in the previous year, while industrial production fell 10.5 per cent YoY in September 2022, following a drop of 3.6% YoY in the previous quarter, tech manufacturing may prove to be a game changer.

However, the success of this proposal may be determined by the implementation of its broadband availability plan, a promise carried forward from one of the outgoing administration’s policies to ensure that the national broadband plan [pdf] delivers “broadband services to 90 per cent of the population” by 2025. The plan fails to address how the administration will ensure that it is affordable for the average Nigerian, as the country reportedly pays more for internet data than its African counterparts.

A departure from the policies of the Buhari administration, the Tinubu manifesto promises to “encourage the prudent use of blockchain technology in finance and banking, identity management, revenue collection and the use of crypto assets.”

“As part of our reforms, we will establish an advisory committee to review the existing regulatory environment governing blockchain technology and virtual asset services and, where necessary, suggest changes to create a more efficient and business-friendly regulatory framework. We will also encourage the CBN to expand the use of our digital currency, the eNaira,” the manifesto added.

In June 2022, the Nigerian Exchange Limited declared that it would embrace blockchain technology to settle trade across its platform starting in 2023. While the Nigerian government has interfered minimally in the blockchain space, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) created the National Blockchain Adoption Strategy [pdf] in 2020 as a roadmap to implementing blockchain technology in Nigeria.

Tinibu’s manifesto appears to be a viable solution for the Nigerian tech ecosystem, but only on paper. It exhibits a gap in comprehension regarding the benefits of the technology and its potential to boost the country’s economy. Furthermore, the manifesto lacks specific details on how to fully integrate an all-encompassing digital economy. Although some of Tinibu’s plans may spark employment growth, their execution, timeline, and scalability may influence the eventual outcome, and only time will tell.

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