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US Urges Nigeria to Embrace Digital Transformation for Economic Diversification 

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US Urges Nigeria to Embrace Digital Transformation for Economic Diversification 

US Consul General Stevens has emphasised diversification through digital technology, urging Nigeria to export ICT solutions and foster local collaborations.

The US Consul General in Nigeria, Will Stevens, on Monday, stressed the need for Nigeria to diversify its economy from oil and gas and invest more in digital technology in order to achieve digital transformation that is currently seeping across globe.

The charge came just as the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) inaugurated its Bayelsa State coordinating office, with a call on Nigerians to support efforts to diversify the economic away from crude oil to non-oil exportable commodities, services and other minerals resources.

Stevens, gave the advice at a fireside chat organised by the US Embassy in collaboration with the Lagos Business School of the Pan Atlantic University, Lekki, Lagos.

Moderated by the Associate Dean, Lagos Business School, Prof. Olayinka David-West, the fireside chat had as its theme: “Unleashing Potential-Thriving In The Digital Age.”

“Nigeria needs to diversify its economy and invest more in digital technology. ICT alone contributes 22 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP. Nigeria should begin to export ICT solutions because ICT is contributing three times more than what oil and gas is contributing to the Nigerian economy.

“There is need for collaboration to unleash the talent that will further grow the digital workforce of Nigeria. We must work together to develop local solutions in Nigeria that will be exported to the global market, if Nigeria must catch up the global digital transformation,” Stevens said.

According to him, partnerships and collaboration; development of digital infrastructure; training and creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, were key factors that the Nigerian government must consider to achieve digital transformation.  

In the area of partnerships and collaboration, Stevens said the partnerships between the private and public sectors were important to promote digital transformation. He called for synergy to collectively develop solutions that could address global needs, adding that Africans need African solutions to sell to the global market so as to boost international trade.

In the area of digital infrastructure development, Stevens said: “Nigeria has massive submarine cable with huge capacities at the shore of the country, predominantly in Lagos and Akwa Ibom States, but connectivity in the hinterland is still slow.

“Nigeria needs to develop its digital infrastructure that will carry broadband capacity from the shores of the country to the hinterlands to boost internet connectivity.”

He also stressed the need for capacity building, advising the Nigerian government and the private sector to come together to train more people on digital skills in order to achieve digital transformation.

According to him, US companies were committed to training Nigerians and upskilling her workforce.

He said creating an enabling environment by the government for businesses to thrive would help achieve digital transformation in a faster way. “Government must promote policies that will help businesses thrive. Nigerians have entrepreneurial spirit and strong resilience to succeed in business. Government must therefore create that enabling environment that will help businesses grow and succeed,” Stevens said.     

Speaking about roles of women in digital transformation, Stevens said women remained important persons in the drive for digital transformation.

According to him, there was need to give women equal opportunity to compete with the men in the technology space.

“The current Nigerian government has respect for women and that respect should translate into its workforce where we will see more of the women engaged in technology development.

“The private sector should be able to engage with more women in the technology space, which I think they are doing as women are heads of most privately owned technology companies operating in Nigeria,” Stevens said.

In his welcome address, the Dean, Lagos Business School, Prof. Chris Ogbechie, said the institution remained committed to fostering innovation, embracing change and nurturing the leaders of tomorrow.

“The digital revolution has ushered in an era of transformation, shaped industries and societies at a very fast pace and we must support digital transformation to grow the Nigerian economy,” Ogbechie said.

Diversification Panacea for Economic Growth, Says NEPC Boss 

Meanwhile, NEPC has inaugurated its Bayelsa State coordinating office, with a call on Nigerians to support efforts to diversify the economic away from crude oil to non-oil exportable commodities, services and other minerals resources.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the office in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, the Director, Chief Executive Officer of the NEPC, Nonye Ayeni, emphasised that diversification remain the only panacea for economic growth and prosperity in the country.

She said it was only when Nigerians grow and process their own goods and services away from crude oil sales that they would be able to generate enough revenue of foreign exchange to help stabilise foreign to naira exchange rate.

She said with the mandate given to the NEPC, which was to develop and promote non-oil export in the country and also to diversify the economy away from oil, the council was ready to collaborate with key stakeholders to make it a reality.

She said, “We are going to work with you, we will create awareness and capacity building in different places, we are in collaboration with different international bodies and some other countries, we will bring those expertise capacity building to Bayelsa

“We are going to train the intending exporters on good agricultural practices, you are going to be receiving training as regard to packaging, labelling, we will work with you to develop the resources that you have in Bayelsa State.”

In his address, the Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Ebiere Jones, said the State had long waited for the office of the Council as it would be easy for government and the people to operate directly with exporters.

Ebiere, who represented the State Governor, Douye Diri, said the presence of the council would ensure that more people would be trained and get access to exporters.

He said, “What we will do as government is to intensify the awareness of the presence of the council and the need for people to go into non-oil export because as you can see Nigeria is a mono product economy.”

Earlier in her welcome address, the Bayelsa State Coordinator of the council, Mrs. Sylvia Adeneye, said the opening of the Coordinating Office underscored the importance of Bayelsa State in Nigeria’s export space.

She said Bayelsa State with its rich natural resources, diverse cultural heritage and enterprising people, the State holds immense potential for driving export-led economic growth. 

“Through this office, we aim to harness these potentials, empower local exporters, and facilitate their access to global markets”, she said 

She urged stakeholders to join hands with the Council as they strive to promote exports, create jobs, and empower Bayelsans so that together they can can build a brighter future for Bayelsa State and Nigeria as a whole. 

 Emma Okonji and Olusegun Samuel

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