Despite a frail 2020 for the Nigerian economy, there was a bit of silver lining. The Nigerian Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) sector emerged as the leading segment of the economy aiding the country’s exit from recession by a whisker in Q4 2020.
The development, in effect, justifies to some extent, the earlier decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to create the Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI) to support businesses in the following areas:
- Information Technology
- Movie Production and Distribution
The CBN began to contemplate the idea of the CIFI following the influx of private investment into the technology space in 2019. For instance, according to the African Tech Start-ups Funding report for 2019, Nigeria got foreign exchange inflows totalling US$137.9m in the period.
This continued into 2020, considering that despite the pandemic, the sector still attracted an additional US$122m in seed funding. Furthermore, the sector contributed 13.12% of the total real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria which came to N19.53tn as of Q4 2020.
Evaluating the progress made so far with the CIFI, as of Q3 2020, the CBN had reportedly disbursed c. N3.12bn in intervention to 320 beneficiaries. While there are concerns around the tenor of the loan for Software Engineers and accessibility of funds to other technological entrepreneurs, we laud the CIFI and encourage relevant agencies to do more.
The Nigerian technology ecosystem is at its nascent stage, and beyond money, there is the need to ensure an enabling environment for operators. For instance, the recent BVN concerns that rocked the financial technology space and the regulatory uncertainty which is a key risk for telecommunication operators among other concerns, are issues that should be decisively dealt with.
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