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The Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi has called on financial institutions in the country to increase the lending rate for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises especially the Financial Technology (FinTech) startups in order to promote financial inclusiveness in the country.

Abdullahi disclosed this in a Webinar conference organised by the FinTech Association of Nigeria with the theme: “COVID-19: Enabling Speedy Business and Economic Recovery through Regulations.”

He stated that traditional banks’ lending process has long been a barrier to assessing finance for SME in Nigeria which is impacting the operations of the SME adding that the banks need to come up with innovative ideas to assist vulnerable SMEs in the era of COVID-19 that is plaguing the world.

He said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted SMEs around the world, Nigeria inclusive. Traditional bank lending process has long been a barrier to accessing finance for SMEs in Nigeria.” 

However, he claimed that “government is providing different types of interventions and palliatives but Financial Technology is not being employed optimally for disbursement.”

He added that “Our interventions are to help lead the tech startups from crisis to recovery as well as support them to navigate today’s challenging business landscape.”

While reiterating the promise of President Muhammadu Buhari to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years, Malam Abdullahi expressed that government would support investment in startups to create jobs and future prosperity for all.  

He explained that NITDA as an Information Technology regulator in the country with twin mandate to regulate and develop the sector has designed initiatives meant to provide a secure base for startup ecosystem with inclusion of FinTech startup adding that immediately the government pronounced the lockdown, NITDA constituted a 10 man committee named Tech4Covid with objectives to  identify innovative solutions to address the pandemic; provide enabling policies and incentives to cushion the impact of the pandemic; and build massive digital skills to reskill the region to leverage technology in different sectors.

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On funding for the innovative ideas of the startup, the NITDA DG recalled that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami had directed that all parastatals under the supervision of the ministry to set up an Innovation Research Fund for the startups and NITDA is equally working with the Bank of Industry to give consideration to IT startups in accessing funding.  

Malam Abdullahi further stated that the Agency is also supporting the IT hubs in the country by implementing the recommendations submitted by Tech4Covid committee on hubs’ support during and after the pandemic and had also developed innovation portal that would serve as database for innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

He listed some of the policies the government has put in place to assist the startups  to include the National Outsourcing Strategic policy, Nigeria Data Protection Regulation, Reviewing of Framework and Guideline for the Use of Digital Platform by Federal Public Institutions and the National Cyber Security Policy. 

Another Speaker at the webinar and chairman of Africa FinTech Network, Mr. Segun Aina described the agency as a great pillar of support which has been reliable in providing funds for FinTech in Nigeria. He said, “Although most of the funding comes from outside the country but regulatory agencies like NITDA have been very helpful in assisting the FinTech industry.  

He said that the Association is embarking on advocacy and support for the startups in 32 African countries and assisting them to access funding from organisations  like the African Development Bank.

Another speaker, Mr. Sopnendu Moharty in his own remarks maintained that African needs to prioritize the new normal by leveraging on digital technology, adding that “COVID-19 has given us opportunity to rethink.

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He said for an economy to survive the pandemic, there is need for people to leverage on IT. “We need to digitise everything and you can’t argue with the fact that if you don’t digitise you will die.”

The event was moderated by Prof. Yinka David-West of Lagos Business School. 

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