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Nigerian startups could bag more government ICT contracts with new policy

Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has launched a policy that may see Nigerian startups enjoy more government ICT contracts.

On Thursday, May 6, 2021, the Nigerian Federal Government officially launched the National Policy for the Promotion of Indigenous Content in the Nigerian Telecommunications Sector. It also launched the Revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration.

The launch of the Revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration reiterated the mandatory use of NIN for all sim registration

The National Policy for the Promotion of Indigenous Content in the Nigerian Telecommunications Sector is in line with the eighth pillar in the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) Document unveiled in November 2019 by the President.

The eighth pillar, titled “Indigenous Content Development and Adoption”, is to provide a policy framework to identify jobs that are currently being outsourced and support the repatriation of these jobs to digitally skilled Nigerians. 

One of the implementation strategies of the pillar states that the government will increase the patronage of digital startups, enabling them to access a minimum percentage of government-funded jobs.

As we noted earlier, the Nigerian government is not known to give its ICT contracts to Nigerian startups. A notice on the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) website in 2017 called for interested bidders to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) to build a secure e-ticketing system on an investment basis. 

One of the eligibility criteria listed on the notice mandates companies to have “verifiable evidence of financial capability with an average annual turnover of not less than ₦1 billion ($2.8 million) in the last three years (2014, 2015, and 2016).” A most unrealistic criterion likely to marginalise small Nigerian startups and ICT companies.

A more recent example is the Lagos unified Internet Fibre Infrastructure Project begun in 2020. Local Industry experts revealed that details of the project were unclear regarding the future of fibre infrastructure in Lagos State.

However, as we reported in 2020, the Ekiti State Government partnered with on-demand mobility startup, Metro Africa Xpress (MAX), to digitise operations of commercial motorcycles (Okada) and tricycles (Keke). The startup was to introduce digital technology to aid the project.

While the new policy might pave the way for government patronage of Nigerian startups, it remains to be seen, given history, how well the policy would be implemented.

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