In an effort to drive economic growth and innovation-driven entrepreneurship in Nigeria, the Minister of Communications And Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami has inaugurated the Massachusete Institute of Technology Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration programme (MIT-REAP).
Inaugurating the Committee, the Minister said that the aims of the project transcend the FCT; as it is being done for Nigeria as a whole.
He explained that the learning and principles applied through REAP, and are transferable to any town, city, state or region of Nigeria.
‘‘The main purpose of the programme is to adopt, and adapt, MIT’s proven frameworks on accelerating innovation to create localized strategies for developing and sustaining enterprises driven by innovation (IDEs).
‘‘The march towards a Digital Economy, which I currently oversee will depend on harnessing scaled innovation towards fulfilling the 8 pillars, which our national strategy is built upon.
‘‘Although the programme emphasizes regional teams, the benefits from this undertaking invariably spread beyond local boundaries; which can only be good for Nigeria,’’ the minister said.
The MIT-REAP provides opportunities for communities around the world to engage with MIT in an evidence based, practical approach to strengthening innovation driven entrepreneurial ecosystem.
MIT-REAP is designed for high-level teams selected from regions dedicated to working alongside MIT Faculty over a 2-year period to drive innovation-driven entrepreneurship in their city, region or The undertaking was inspired by the President’s fight against Poverty and his focus on Economic Development.
Hence, in 2018, after a period of evaluating options on programmes that could help deepen the emerging innovativeness observed by the ministry among our youth; and catalyse economic growth and impact therein, a team of decided that the REAP programme offered by MIT offered the best proven example of such. And in January 2019, the ministry decided to make the application to MIT as Team Abuja.
Recall that Lagos had previously undergone REAPS and, arguably, there have been benefits to its ecosystem; but little direct carry-over to the rest of the country. Therefore, there is an implicit aim, this time to make the effort more inclusive, even if doing the programme for Nigeria as a whole would have been too cumbersome.
The Lagos team had colleagues from Canada, Iceland, Peru, Spain and the UAE; attesting to the importance that the world places on creating innovation driven ecosystems, and our aspiration to operate at global best standards. A few months later, in May, MIT accepted Abuja’s application to embark on the programme after a competitive assessment of bidding regions from all over the world.
By this, Abuja is joining in REAP’s 7th Cohort by teams from regions in Denmark, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan (ROC).
According to the minister, President Muhammadu Buhari, had given his blessings and active support right from the beginning.
‘‘Lagos, for example, has inspired Abuja and other cities around the country to develop fledgling innovation hubs focused around various industries, like ICT, Retail, Fintech, Construction and Agribusiness. To this end, Abuja has emerged and is indeed recognized as a Tier 2 African Innovation Hub.’’
‘‘And when we look at it critically, there are virtually no limits to what sectors of the economy and society that innovation cannot touch. This is not just about the use of ICT for its sake alone, but as a potential enabler for amazing things to happen everywhere, alongside other forms of technological research and development.’’
‘‘I have humbly taken up the role as Champion of the Abuja Team and have with me a talented group of people with varied but valuable backgrounds that have kept working hard towards implementing MIT-REAP for Abuja.
‘‘MIT-REAP is not, and cannot be a short-term gimmick, but actions emanating from it can begin to take root now. It is strategic and will be incorporated into our Digital Transformation plans.
‘‘Though we do have a good base of SME entrepreneurship, we need to play in the new economies for they are the drivers of future job growth. It means we need to tackle bottlenecks, be they policy-based or any underlying issues and attitudes among youth, as they may be identified. It also means seeking lots of data.
‘‘While a regular SME may employ 5 to 10 persons, a scaled-up IDE can make that number 50 or more; and they would also be quality skilled jobs, in comparison. We need to pivot towards encouraging many more of these founded by our youth.
REAP advocates a structured, stakeholder driven approach to tackling innovation. The reality we find is that innovation has operated largely in silos; each stakeholder largely doing their own thing. However, by coming together we can achieve the synergies that accelerate it.
‘‘Furthermore, we are provided with an objective set of criteria that enable us to assess our capacities for Innovation and Entrepreneurship against global benchmarks. This is critical for our capacity building efforts to ensure that we, all stakeholders, identify where best to channel our resources for best impact,’’ he added.
With the induction of Abuja into REAP, federal government seeks to develop harmonized strategies and remove identified bottlenecks; in order to catalyze innovation and the business of innovativeness.
The minister therefore charged the committee to offer useful and new ideas and support that would bring progressive change in our system.
‘‘Your perspectives on issues can offer critical assessments, new ideas and support for any necessary changes that we need to make in our systems for the long-term good. ‘We are depending on your vision and experience, therefore, to help us focus better and drive wider support and advocacy for the principles we have.’’
‘‘For MIT-REAP to succeed, no entity can act alone, saying that MIT requires a collaboration between 5 stakeholder groups, which the committee represents,’’ said Pantami.
Beyond the team itself, the minister said the implementation of REAP has required creating wider partnerships with other players within those stakeholder groups, adding that the success of REAP will
Apart from the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, other Co –Champions of the REAP are the Minister of FCT, who is the Chief Host, the Executive Secretary PEF(M)B and the DG NITDA, whose organisations are expected to spearhead the government stakeholder engagement.
‘‘I look forward to bringing the REAP Framework as a basis for collaboration with arms of the Federal and State Governments; among others. Collaboration with these entities, and the private sector, will be vital.
‘‘The private sector is very integral to REAP. Here with us in Team Abuja are members from varied business backgrounds, including entrepreneurs and financial service professionals; whose valuable experience and networks shall ensure better cross collaboration between Government, Business and Education.
‘‘If we do this right, local entrepreneurship will rise to a quality that attracts high levels of venture capital investment and solidifies our direct investment profile. Abuja is an attractive destination for FDI into Nigeria, and with this it can only improve further.
‘‘We shall aim to have Advisory Board meetings after every REAP Workshop, to ensure that the Action Phases in-between them are well mapped out and meaningful,’’ the minister said.
The next Workshop shall be in June, with follow up meetings in July or August.
Meanwhile, Abuja has bided to host the 3rd workshop in this series to take place in January 2021.
It is expected to bring a lot of prestige to the country as it has never been held in Africa.
For the Director General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa, the MIT-REAP project is a tonic in the federal government’s move to digitise the economy and create millions of jobs to unemployed youths.