Home Entertainment “Akwa Ibom, the fast-rising Silicon Valley of Africa”

“Akwa Ibom, the fast-rising Silicon Valley of Africa”

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COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on world economies, Nigeria inclusive. Restriction of movement of people and goods occasioned by lockdowns and slow trade all contributed in no small measure in worsening the global crisis.

The global economy almost came to a screeching halt due to low commodity exchange, low demand for oil, rising inflation and unemployment. In countries like Nigeria, these issues weighed heavily on our economy which still relies on the proceeds from the sale of crude oil.

In 2020, Nigeria slipped into its second recession in five years, with a GDP contraction of 3.6% in the third quarter of that year. Unemployment rate rose to 33.3% in the fourth quarter of 2020, about 8.6 million Nigerians were estimated to have fallen into poverty in 2020, and about 13 million children were out of school. Despite its negative impact, Covid-19 has accelerated the embrace of digital technologies in our everyday lives.

At a time when the world was almost at its kneels, technology became a lifeline for the global economy. When offices were forced to shut down or work remotely, we resorted to working virtually with the help of networking platforms such as Zoom, Teams, etc.

According to Dr Simon Harry, the Statistician-General of the Federation and Head of National Bureau of Statistics, despite the impact of Covid-19, the nation’s economy grew by 4.03 per cent in the third quarter of 2021. This growth was driven largely by the non-oil sector, which according to the NBC, grew by 5.44 per cent in real terms during the reference quarter, higher by 7.95 per cent compared to the rate recorded in the same quarter of 2020 and 1.30 per cent lower than the second quarter of 2021. This sector was driven in the third quarter 2021 mainly by trade, information and communication telecommunication.

During the Mobile World Congress which held in June last year in Barcelona, Spain, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, highlighted the provision of enabling regulatory environment and the right policies as critical factors for digital economic growth.

He said that the country’s proximity to West and Central Africa provides an enabling environment for foreign investors, adding that efforts have been made to improve security in Nigeria. Among the states in Nigeria, Akwa Ibom is fast becoming the new Silicon Valley through the laying of the foundation for digital industrialization in the South-South region of the country. With a number of factors which makes it the best market for investors including location, economy, youthful population, security, and others, Akwa Ibom government means business.

According to the Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Committee on Foreign Direct Investment Commission, Gabriel Ukpeh, with the recent auctioning of 5G technology in Nigeria, the shape of the industry will change.

Mr. Ukpeh said this during the 3rd Annual Nigeria Tech Summit which held in Abuja recently. According to him, Akwa Ibom State is an emerging technology and innovation hub, with a planned Science Park, emphasis on IT and related subjects in educational curriculum, and several tech and innovation hubs employing thousands of young people, etc.

The Nigeria Tech Summit is an initiative hosted by the Global Startup Ecosystem in partnership with US Embassy of Abuja, Nigeria, Google Cloud, AWS, IBM Cloud, Hubspot, Sendgrid, & more. The summit boasts of an active network of Nigeria’s investors, tech entrepreneurs, celebrities, politicians and business moguls. Each year the program gathers thousands of pioneers from across Nigeria and around the world to address and tackle challenges that affect Nigeria’s future.

He said that the experience of Covid-19 has made it mandatory to enhance online connectivity and remote working facilities right across the globe. A good example is this program; the numbers joining online outstrips the participants physically here. The backbone to this is broadband connectivity.

Speaking further on the investment opportunities in the Tech Space, Ukpeh harped on the digital infrastructural developments going on in Akwa Ibom State.

According to him, “Akwa Ibom State Government is working assiduously to ensure that an undersea cable lands on its shores in the next 12 to 24 months. The speed will be 20 times faster than the current fastest undersea cable in Nigeria, and related data will be 10 times cheaper than the current cost of data.

The State Government is also working to ensure that a world class data center is established in Akwa Ibom”. On the reason that makes Akwa Ibom State the most conducive destination for investment, Ukpeh said that Akwa Ibom State has the longest shoreline in the country at 129 km, and this is a major requirement to land an undersea cable.

In addition, Akwa Ibom State has the largest reserves of crude oil and gas in the country, and thermal power plants can be built to supply the electricity needed to power the data centers. Finally, he said that data centers and indeed, other manufacturing businesses, are best sited in import duty cum tax free locations – Akwa Ibom State has the largest free trade zones in the country at 64,000 hectares. Import duties and company taxes are non-existent, and sales are billed and collected in foreign currency”.

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