Nigerian government sets up a special committee to support struggling startups

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) seeks to offer an exemption to startups that provide essential services during the lockdown in Nigeria. On 5 April, the agency created an online form to identify companies that provide such services.

This move is coming a week after President Buhari announced a lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and Abuja. Ahead of the lockdown, the government did not create a mechanism for companies providing essential services to apply for exemptions. Instead, it granted a general exemption for certain sectors.

Some companies, especially logistics companies, were puzzled about this. Kobo360 claims over 3000 drivers on its platform have stopped working due to the lack of clarification.A day after the lockdown started, Jumia’s warehouse in Lagos was closed temporarily.

This is the problem,NITDA is trying to rectify.

This move is part of a more comprehensive intervention strategy for the tech sector

The global economy has been ravaged by Coronavirus and Nigeria is no exception. As demand for most products and services declines,many tech-driven businesses are struggling and many could fail. The Nigerian government is stepping in to aid these companies.

On April 1, NITDA formed a 10-member advisory committee to advise on how it should help the tech ecosystem.

The committee is chaired by Tomi Davies, President of Innovation Support Network (ISN) and President of the African Business Angels Network (ABAN). Other committee members include Amal Hassan, CEO, Outsource Global; Bosun Tijani, CEO, CCHub; Juliet Anammah, Head of International Affairs, Jumia Group; Kola Aina, Founder, Ventures Platform; Musa Ali Baba, CEO Teasy Pay; Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Co-Founder Andela and Flutterwave; and Collins Onuegbu, CEO Signal Alliance. Dr Kalli Zannah, Special Assistant to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy is also a member.

According to the commitee’s chairman, Davis, it seeks to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the operations and sustainability of tech-driven enterprises. He also said the commitee is set out to elicit, review and recommend business continuity support to the emerging tech ecosystem in Nigeria.

A number of tasks lie ahead of the NITDA committee.

First, it will develop strategies to provide businesses and individuals with affordable internet. Unlike other nations, Nigeria’s telcos have refused to change internet access plans to help people working remotely.

Second, it is working on a plan to boost tech companies ‘access to finance

A third task is to promote tech hubs and enable startups to connect remote hubs. The pandemic has had adverse effects on hubs that have caused many to shut down and startups to lose access to some of its capital.

And fourth, the committee will establish steps to improve the use of digital technology during this time for people to operate from home.

Two days its inauguration, the commission submitted a preliminary report with recommendations, to the government.

“NITDA asked for a report within 48 hours,” Davies wrote on Twitter. “We delivered, jokingly requesting government do likewise with our recommendations.”

NITDA Director-General Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, Davies reported, has started to work on the recommendation.

Exemption is one example for tech-driven firms. Reducing tax burdens on businesses is high on the committee’s agenda as well.