By Adedapo Adesanya
The Nigerian Vice President, Mr. Yemi Osinbajo, reiterated the need to bridge the entrepreneurial gap with the rapid growth in innovation and technology witnessed over the years globally.
That was the Vice President’s view in a pre-recorded speech at a weekend ceremony in Lagos to mark the 20th anniversary of Interswitch, a leading fintech company in Nigeria and Africa.
He said there are still more exciting new frontiers for Nigeria’s talented and enterprising young entrepreneurs to explore and exploit.
Speaking at the ceremony on Saturday evening, Mr Osinbajo noted that “As innovation and technology open up exciting new frontiers in medicine and healthcare, we can rest assured that Nigeria will never will not be left behind”.
Noting that “innovative disruptions thrive on natural and human gaps within the system,” the vice president added that many of them are in Africa.
According to the Vice President, “this is why our continent is undoubtedly the next and perhaps the last frontier”.
“Across the continent, there are gaping gaps waiting to be filled by innovative ideas and entrepreneurial efforts. It is exciting to see how young people, in particular, are rising to the challenge and the accelerating pace of creative disruption in their wake,” he added.
Speaking in more detail about the incredible talents and potential of Nigerian and African youth to drive socio-economic growth, the Vice President said that, “In 2021 alone, African tech startups raised over 4 billions of dollars in funding, with more than 564 startups across the continent solving critical problems in nearly every industry.
“Over the next two decades, Africa’s workforce will be the largest in the world. They are competent and they arrive. As a result, more innovative disruptors will still emerge to fill more of these gaps.
Mr. Osinbajo further said that President Buhari’s administration will continue to provide an enabling environment for young entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive.
“Our responsibility as government has been to meet them halfway and perhaps exceed them with corresponding creativity in providing forward-thinking regulatory frameworks and adequate infrastructure. I can assure you that no effort is spared in this regard.
“Nevertheless, there is still so much to do; and a lot of ground to cover. I have no doubt, however, that we are up to the task,” he stressed.
The VP observed, “It is through innovative disruptions that humans have succeeded in solving their most complex challenges and staying ahead of the survival curve.
“Often these ideas are championed by mavericks who find better, safer and more profitable ways for us to live, do business and govern; slight tweaks that improve our overall experience, and comprehensive overhauls that take us down new paths.
On what he described as “two rigorous decades of accelerated change” since Interswitch was founded 20 years ago, he noted that it was “incredible that what started as a groundbreaking idea to facilitate transparent payments across Africa has become in just two decades something of an icon of technology and innovation literally pioneering the Fintech revolution underway in Africa.
The Vice President described Interswitch “as a leading company at the forefront of agency banking and financial inclusion in Nigeria”, which “also operates the world’s largest and fastest growing domestic card scheme, run by the private sector”.
He further noted, “So it’s a testament to the quality of talent and courage of the founders of Interswitch that they clearly saw the future and predicted the potential of an emerging technology for scale and scale. ‘application.”
Situating Interswitch further in the innovative disruption that has since transformed Nigeria’s fintech space, Mr. Osinbajo recalled that “in 2002, only 569 million people were connected to the internet worldwide. Nigeria as a whole had less than 200,000 people with internet access. In fact, PayPal, one of the pioneering electronic payment companies in the internet age, was just four years old at the time.
Since then, Africa’s domestic e-payments market has grown by 20% annually over the past two years and is expected to reach around $40 billion by 2025, the vice president said.
“It is estimated that around half of all future digital payments will come from Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Ghana and Kenya, with Nigeria seeing the fastest growth at 35% per year. Much of this is, of course, due to the innovative efforts of Interswitch. Your rapid expansion, which already serves customers in more than 23 African markets, is a sufficient demonstration of growing vitality.