Nigeria remains a Gateway to investments in Africa hence the Federal Government of Nigeria expressed delight over $200million worth in investment by Microsoft in an edifice housing its office and the African Development Centre (ADC) as landmark projects that will accelerate the digital transformation, not just in the country, but also on the continent.
Professor Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Federal Republic of Nigeria made remarks while delivering keynote speech at the Microsoft Nigeria New Office commissioning today, March 21, 2022 in Lagos.
The new office and the Microsoft ADC were commissioned after 22 years Microsoft was incorporated in the country, partnering with both the public and the private sector in delivering cutting-edge digital solutions.
The Microsoft ADC for West Africa located at 24 Glover Rd, Ikoyi 106104, Lagos-Nigeria will serve as a premier centre of engineering for Microsoft, where world-class African talent can create solutions for local and global impact.
While commissioning the Microsoft ADC on behalf of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof. Pantami said that citing of the Africa Development Centre in Nigeria shows the confidence that Microsoft has in the country as a leading tech country on the continent and a worthy partner.
In his words:
“I congratulate Microsoft Nigeria team and the global Microsoft team on this important achievement and thank you for partnering with Nigeria.
“The choice of Nigeria is very strategic for many reasons, including our location, population, economic status on the continent, our large pool of highly creative youth, and many more.
“Nigeria is both a geographic and an economic gateway to sub-Saharan Africa. As a geographic gateway, we have a prime location between West and Central Africa. Partnership with Nigeria essentially gives investors access to close to 550 million people- over 200 million from Nigeria, another 200 million West Africans and about 150 million Central Africans.
“On the economic front, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Report, Nigeria had a GDP of over $432 billion in 2020, making it the country with the highest GDP on the continent. As part of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), partnership with Nigeria also provides access to the largest free trade zone across the world- an area worth over US$3 trillion in GDP and one that eliminates tariffs on 90% of goods traded across the continent.
“It is also noteworthy that Nigeria has a very young population, which has a median age of just 18.4 years, according to a 2021 Report by Statistica. This young population is also known for innovation and creativity and explains why Nigeria leads in several statistics on innovation on the continent. For example, according to Techibytes, as of June 2021, there were over 600 unicorns in the world, raising $442 billion in total and having a value of around $2 trillion.
“Furthermore, as at January 2022, there were a total of 7 unicorns on the African continent, of which 5 have their roots in Nigeria’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Furthermore, according to data from “Africa: The Big Deal,” Nigerian startups raised $1.37b of the total $4billion raised by startups on the continents. All these statistics are no coincidence and they point to the fact that Nigeria remains one of the most, if not the most strategic tech partner on the continent”, the Minister said.
He further wooed other international corporations to borrow a leaf from Microsoft and key into the Ministry’s NDEPS as a platform for fostering collaborations.
“We developed the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a Digital Nigeria; built on 8-pillars and it provides the overarching policy for all efforts to develop Nigeria’s digital economy. It also outlines our areas of potential partnerships and provides a platform for fostering collaboration with leading institutions like Microsoft.
“The facility that was launched today aligns with several of our pillars and I will mention a few of them. The first of these pillars is the Digital Literacy and Skills Pillar (Pillar #2). We have been promoting efforts to enable a paradigm shift from a focus on just paper qualifications to the right emphasis on skills. We believe this centre will provide such high-level and in demand skills for Nigerians. Effective capacity building also involves mentorship that we believe this Centre will also support in providing this. The impact of mentorship is evident in the success of Microsoft, as even Bill Gates attested to the importance of being mentored by Warren Buffet.
“The Digital Society and Emerging Technologies (Pillar #7) and Digital Services Development and Promotion (Pillar #5) also represent areas of alignment with the activities of the ADC. It is note-worthy that several of the main hard skills promoted in the Forth Industrial Revolution are expressed as emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Augumented Reality, Blockchain, etc.
“We are happy that the activities at this Centre include an extensive use of these emerging technologies and it was interesting to read that your focus regarding the ADC is to ensure ‘local innovation, global impact (as you seek to) fuel AI, machine learning and mixed reality innovation”, Pantami added.
The Minister expressed confidence that partnerships in these areas will be mutually beneficial to both Microsoft and the Nigerian government.
Earlier, Joy Chik, Corporate Vice President for the Identity Division in Microsoft’s Cloud + AI group, recalled that it was almost three decades ago that Microsoft opened its first offices in Africa.
In this time, the global technology giant has witnessed incredible growth on the continent with more internet connectivity, more digital capability and more innovation.
She said that Africans have expanded the applications of technology, changing the way communities bank, farm and even access healthcare.
“At Microsoft, we’re very fortunate to have played a part in realising this potential, building strong partnerships to accelerate digital transformation and create sustained societal impact. A big milestone for this investment came earlier this year, as we opened Africa’s first hyper-scale datacentres in South Africa, promoting business innovation in the cloud.
“As the next step on our journey in Africa, and to better understand a continent rapidly adopting technology in the cloud, and at the edge, Microsoft today launched its Africa Development Centre (ADC) for West Africa located in Nigeria. With two initial sites in Nairobi, Kenya and Lagos, Nigeria, the ADC will serve as a premier centre of engineering for Microsoft, where world-class African talent can create solutions for local and global impact”, she said.
Olatomiwa Williams, the Country Manager, Microsoft Nigeria and Ghana described the ADC as a platform that supports Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more.
The ADC, she said, is the first Global Development Centre in Africa with a combined expected investment of US $100 million over the first five years of operation.
On his part, Gafar Lawal, Managing Director, Microsoft African Development Centre, West Africa, stressed that the Continent is poised for innovation at the intelligent edge.
He said that, to staff the ADC, they started recruitment in 2019, seeking engineering talent from across the region to fuel AI, machine learning and mixed reality innovation.
“Engineers have already started working, and we intended to recruit 500 full-time engineers by the end of the year by 2023. However, currently, we have exceeded 500. This is to tell you about the abundance of talents we have in Africa.
Lawal said, to build its talent pipeline, Microsoft ADC is also partnering with local universities to create a modern intelligent edge and cloud curriculum, totally unique to Africa.
“Graduates will have access to the ADC to build a relevant and meaningful career in data science, AI, mixed reality, application development and many more”, he added.
He said that total investment in ADC West Africa is in excess of $200million with the new office costing not less than $70million.
In his contribution, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), said that the National Centre for Artificial for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) can serve as one of the key locations for such partnerships.
He said the Centre has adopted programmes that utilise emerging technologies to solve national problems in agriculture, energy, education, etc.
“These are useful programmes for which Microsoft can further explore partnerships with Nigeria”, Abdullahi said.
The event attracted crème de crème players in the Nigerian ICT ecosystem drawn from public and private sectors including top officials from Microsoft, past MDs, partners, amongst others who toured the 6-floor office equipped with modern working tools.