From Ban To Boom: Is this Nigeria’s most exciting Minister?

About Fatu
By Fatu Ogwuche

Top of mind: Happy Sunday!

The most talked about news from Nigeria this week was the ministerial list – with one nomination causing controversy.

For most folks, the nomination of tech entrepreneur Bosun Tijani is the break Nigeria’s tech ecosystem has needed for almost a decade – based on the assumption that Tijani gets the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

In this special edition, we explore the nomination, how it’s been received, and what it could mean for Nigeria’s tech ecosystem – if he gets the portfolio. 

Let’s dive in👇

One big thing:

  • Bosun Tijani’s ministerial nomination.

From Ban To Boom: Is this Nigeria’s most exciting Minister?

Nigeria’s government hasn’t had the best track record with tech

In 2019, the Central Bank ordered the closure of 14 fintech companies, including Risevest and Bamboo – two of the most notable tech players in the country, making a lot of startups illegal operators overnight.

This was an indication of the government’s antagonistic approach to the ecosystem.

In June 2021, former President Muhammadu Buhari tweeted what inevitably led to one of the most notable government crackdowns in the tech ecosystem.

Everything came to a head when the tweet was deleted by Twitter, citing a violation of the platform’s rules against abusive behaviour.

Finally, the Buhari administration had the justification to put tech in its place.

Three days after the deletion, Twitter was banned in Nigeria.

Millions of Nigerian Twitter users could not access the platform for over half a year – switching to VPNs to continue usage.

After much controversy (including reports that Twitter had caved and agreed to hand over user data to the Nigerian government), the ban was lifted. 

Seventeen months later, the Buhari administration is over, and Nigeria has a new president.

A new campaign

During his presidential campaigns, newly-elected President Bola Ahmed Tinubu promised to create a more business-friendly environment in Nigeria and promote the tech sector’s growth.

Tinubu promised tax breaks and other incentives to attract foreign investment into the tech sector and increase the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

Cautious optimism

After a two-month wait, the new administration has offered what might be the most notable insight into its plans for the tech sector through the ministerial nominations.

In the last week, the Tinubu administration sent out nominees for ministerial posts to be screened by the Senate, featuring many expected and surprising candidates.

To the surprise of the Nigerian tech ecosystem, Bosun Tijani was nominated.

However, the excitement was short-lived. Nigeria’s tech entrepreneurs went on the defensive as Tijani was bombarded by critics denouncing his nomination and attacking his suitability as a minister of the republic. 

Some folks criticised the President for choosing a non-supporter instead of political party loyalists.

What validates Tijani’s nomination?

We explored what qualifies Tijani for a ministerial nomination, what ministry he leads, and the impact he could make in the ecosystem.

Short answer:
  • Tech sector experience
  • Commitment to public service
  • Vision for Nigeria’s tech sector

Overall, Tinubu’s decision to nominate Tijani as a minister sends a clear message to the tech community. 

This could help attract more investment and talent to the tech sector and deepen the government’s relationship with the community.

The next four years

Based on predictions, the likely portfolio is the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

The ministry was created to facilitate the development of the digital economy.

While the ministry has made some progress in executing its mandate, there’s still much to do.

This is where Tijani could make an impact.

Over the course of his successful career, Tijani has created and led many initiatives and programs to improve tech in Nigeria.

Some of the most notable are:

Startup Lagos: a non-profit organization that supports the growth of startups in Lagos, Nigeria. 

Angel Investor Network (AIN): a network of angel investors who invest in startups in Nigeria. 

Digital Africa Festival: a pan-African tech festival that brings together startups, investors, and other stakeholders from across the continent.

With a proven track record of creating, executing, and scaling impact – Tijani is a perfect fit for the technology ministry.

For decades, Nigerian tech has sought a seat at the table of federal governance, and Tijani’s nomination gives the ecosystem that opportunity.   

For tech entrepreneurs, there’s some hope that Tijani becomes the catalyst for dissolving tensions between the government and the tech industry, ultimately spurring the revitalisation of the ecosystem.

The next four years will be the answer to speculations about Tijani’s tenure and its impact on the regulatory landscape.

One thing’s for sure, there’s a future where more experienced world-class tech leaders serve and operate at the highest levels of government.

Long may it continue.

Thanks for reading! We’d love to hear your thoughts about this week’s issue.

Please respond directly to this email or find me on Twitter @fatuogwuche 🙂

And follow us on Twitter @bigtechthisweek

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