The World Bank Group on Thursday reported that although Nigeria is the largest mobile market in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) with a strong mobile broadband infrastructure and a vibrant digital entrepreneurial ecosystem, the lack of infrastructure and connectivity in the country’s rural areas is a key challenge.
The Breton Woods institution disclosed this during the launch of its first Nigeria Digital Economy Diagnostic Report during an eNigeria 2019 hosted by the government.
The report indicated that the government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan for 2017–2020 (ERGP) recognized the need for a digital-led strategy to make the nation’s economy more competitive for the 21st century.
In line with this goal, the Digital Economy Diagnostic showed that the country had made several positive developments in the digital space, including high-speed Internet via five underwater international links all of which have reduced significantly constraints in terms of international bandwidth usage and prices, as well as boosting network capacity.
Also, the diagnostic found that Nigeria was improving on the provision of digital platforms. For example, it noted that the government created a central portal to improve the delivery and quality of public services.
With the size of Nigeria’s economy, the report highlighted the enormous opportunities Digital Financial Services (DFS), a driver of financial inclusion, could have for this growing market.
This is even as the World Bank reported that the financial sector had already benefitted from investments in payment systems and financial markets infrastructure, such as the Bank Verification Number (BVN).
Despite these remarkable strides, the report still showed that millions of Nigerians still lacked formal identification records to access a range of public and private services, noting that financial inclusion in the country has effectively stalled with around 60 million Nigerian adults without access to a formal account
Commenting on the report’s findings, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, said: “Realizing the full benefits of the digital economy requires Nigeria to focus on accelerating improvements in five fundamental pillars of the digital economy; digital infrastructure, platforms, financial services, entrepreneurship and skills.
“To ensure that the country is digitally enabled by 2030, investing in infrastructure to bridge the digital divide and creating an enabling regulatory environment for the digital economy to thrive is of paramount importance”, the banker added
The report stated further that given Nigeria’s large, young and entrepreneurial population, digital entrepreneurship could become an engine of growth.
The World Bank reports further: “Lagos is a mature and active ecosystem with dynamic incubators, venture capital companies, and digital start-ups. Digital entrepreneurship ecosystems are also growing in the cities of Abuja and Port Harcourt, with a potential for expansion to other cities. But lack of early-stage financing and limited market opportunities outside of Lagos and Abuja remain key constraints.
“Nigeria has over 500 tertiary and secondary institutions offering skills development and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programs, some of which also offer digital skills for employment. Some of the dominant education and training programs in Nigeria are offered through private sector–led interventions by (e.g. Andela and Google among others), while the government has also established implementation of digital skills programs as a component of a national digital economy project”, it added.
The Breton Woods institution pointed out that Nigeria can still do more to ensure it takes full advantage of the opportunities bound in its digital economy.
The diagnostic highlights the need for strategic investment and interventions needed for Nigeria to kickstart its digital transformation.