Boosting Nigerian digital economy for shared prosperity.

Last week it was reported in the news that the European Union (EU) is going to invest about 820 million euros to boost Nigeria’s digital economy in the form of an EU-Nigeria Digital Economy Package that will run until 2024.

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager

This is a welcome development. the Afro-European relationships need to be rejigged and recalibrated in line with the expanding economic opportunities of the digital age.

Investment in the digital economy would not only create jobs for Africa youths but would also help to stem the tide of irregular migration flow from Africa to Europe via: Libya, Morocco and Senegal. With digital skills an African could be working remotely in any European country (or other Western country) and earn euros or dollars legitimately for his services.

Banditry, kidnapping hookups and Internet fraud are symptoms of lack of in-demand digital skills needed to earn decent living in the digital age. Ability to write computer codes and other digital skills are the best alternative to joblessness, Yahoo-Yahoo and other illicit online-income-generating schemes.

To give an example, the creators of WhatsApp messaging app, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, having left their job at Yahoo!applied for job positions at Facebook, but due a defective hiring process their programming skills were underrated hence they were denied employment opportunities at Facebook. However, with their programming skills they co-founded WhatsApp in 2009.

These guys decided to use their coding skills to solve two problems inherent in text messaging, namely limited words that could be sent via SMS and inability of the sender to confirm if the email receiver has seen/read the sent message. These two problems were solved via codes used to design WhatsApp. As WhatsApp gained market acceptability and scalability Facebook decided to acquire it. In February 2014, Facebook acquired Whatsapp for a whopping $19 billion. That's the transformative power of digital skills, from rejected job applicants to shareholders!

While the EU's digital economy intervention is highly commendable, the EU should try to incentivize European investors to invest in tech start ups in Nigeria, especially in the area of app development and monetization. Recently, Nigerian tech startups have been able to raise funds from US investors. and the investors are happy with the impressive rate of return on investment.

According to a recent report Nigeria has the highest mobile web traffic globally with India in second position. According to statistics from StockApps.com, in Nigeria, 82.63% of the internet was browsed on mobile phones, while in India the share of mobile web traffic was at 73.8%. This depicts that the mobile app market in Nigeria would be a profitable venture.

Edutech apps, where people could learn coding and other digital skills at affordable prices need to be developed, expanded and deployed. Also microcredentials and mini-qualification online courses need to be developed and delivered via apps so that secondary school leavers could acquire relevant skills needed to secure skills-based jobs, even without a university degree. For instance, to become a data scientist, no degree is needed, but a micro-certification from IBM or Google is enough. Micro-credentials would also enhance competence and employability of graduate job seekers.

Since Nigerians spend more time on smartphones than any other computing devices, there is a need to meet them where they are spending most of their time and deliver value for the benefit of all - Nigeria and the EU.

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