Inside the implementation of the Nigeria Startup Act
Its four months since Nigeria's president assented to the country's startup act, and only 32% of states in the country have indicated interest to domesticate the Act.
In October 2022, a year after the drafting and consultations for the Nigerian Startup Act (NSA) commenced, Nigeria's President, Muhammadu Buhari signed it into law to drive growth for the country's tech and startup ecosystem.
In a 2022 report by TechHive and Ikigai, the Nigeria Startup Act ranked best among the other four African startup legislations—Senegal, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Kenya—with relation to their scope, label and governance, incentives and enforcement.
However, analysts say that the implementation of the Act in the country has been slow since the presidential assent in October 2022. According to Tracy Okoro, the State Adoption Lead at the Nigeria Startup Act secretariat, "I think that the whole country has been fully focused on the elections."
"Hopefully, now that we are almost done with the election cycle, we will start seeing actions towards the implementation of the act," she told Benjamindada.com. Ms Okoro further stated that the inauguration of the implementation committee and creation of the Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is the core part of the Act is currently underway. "There will be an inauguration shortly," she added.
The council is responsible for the formulation and provision of general policy guidelines for the realization of the objectives of the Act and also gives overall direction for the harmonisation of laws and regulations that affect a startup.
The implementation committee was inaugurated on Wednesday (March 8, 2023) by Nigeria's Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami.
Twelve states want to domesticate the Nigeria Startup Act
Out of Nigeria's 36 states, only twelve—Kaduna, Lagos, Kwara, Ekiti, Anambra, Imo, Niger, Nassarawa, Oyo, Rivers, Osun and Zamfara—have indicated interest to domesticate the Act, Ms Okoro disclosed to Benjamindada.com via a call.
Just like, Tunbosun Alake, the Special Adviser on Innovation & Technology to Lagos state's governor said last year, "each state is a jurisdiction on its own. And for state actors to be able to implement some of the provisions of the law, they themselves have to domesticate."
For instance, Osun state has cancelled right-of-way fees, allowing telecom companies and internet providers to lay fibre optic cables for free, as part of its digital economy policy, this follows the state's decision to localise the startup Act.
"The Act is programmed to ensure that new startup promoters and entrepreneurs secure desired mentoring and financing. The law, once domesticated will enhance the goals of both the [state's] ICT and the Tech Innovation policy," Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke, disclosed on Monday during the flag-off of a multi-billion Naira digital economy project in the South Western state, to be financed by investors.
In March 2022, the Kaduna state government through the Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency said that "the sub-national [startup] bill will create an enabling regulatory environment for startups, promote the development and expansion of businesses, support innovation, accelerate technology and allow a private-sector driven, vibrantly entrepreneurial and the digital ecosystem to thrive."
Sanusi Ismaila, a tech entrepreneur and the Founder of CoLab Kaduna previously told Benjamindada.com that "the Act has interesting things that will aid the Kaduna Technology City" — with suggestions including a “dig-once” fibre policy, incentivised STEM education to nurture talent early, and government incentives for startups domiciled within the city.
Sustainability of the Act
Continuity is always a challenge with policy implementation in Nigeria, especially with the change of federal and state administrations, amidst the ongoing elections. However, Ms Okoro said that the NSA secretariat is working with public sector stakeholders; like directors whose positions are often not affected by elections.
"We are ensuring that these public officers are able to integrate this into the state's digital economy strategy. So, regardless of who comes into power, there will be a structure to enable the ecosystem in the state," she added. "We are building relationships and educating key stakeholders about the need to implement the act."
In Kaduna state, Ismaila said that the government's partnership with private sector players like CoLab and Talent City is a strategy for enabling the sustainability of the Act's implementation in the state, even after the current administration.
"With the move into the digital economy, every person is fully aware of the need to create an enabling environment for tech companies to thrive in their states. So, I know that every governor that is coming in should or will have a plan for tech and innovation," Ms Okoro added.