The European Union (EU) has announced that it would invest €150 billion in Africa over a seven-year period in furtherance of the EU-Africa Digilogic, which is a sustainable network of Digital Innovation Hubs in Europe and Africa.
The EU also stated that it would commit €820 million to advance the EU-Nigeria Digital Economy Package that would run for three years under the EU’s global gateway initiative.
These were announced at the weekend, in Lagos, by representatives of the European Commission during an interactive roundtable with youth, innovators, start-ups and women entrepreneurs that was organised by The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) and the European Commission.
An Adviser to European Commission Executive Vice President, Mr. Alejandro Caintos, said during the forum that there would be a summit between the African Union (AU) and the EU for the commission to come with its complete deliverables on global investment for Africa.
“We will mobilise €150 billion in the next seven years into the African continent,” he said.
For the €820 million planned investment in Nigeria, he explained that the fund would be targeted at digital infrastructure investment, digitalisation of public services, encouragement of digital entrepreneurship, and acquisition of digital skills for Nigerian youths and enhancement of digital governance.
“The EU will support building the fibre optic cables and data centres needed to improve Nigerian’s access to high speed connectivity. The European Investment Bank (EIB) will invest E100 million to expand secure 4G connectivity in Lagos and Ogun States and triple national data capability.
“The EU will support the digitalisation of Nigeria’s administration to allow better and more accessible public services to citizens,” the commission said.
He said the EIB “is investing €250 million to strengthen Nigeria’s digital identity infrastructure with the highest data protection standards.”
Moreover, “The EU will support the creation and scaling up of tech start-ups and boost innovative solutions for Nigeria’s society and economy.”
The commission said the EU would support Nigeria’s digital governance by helping, “the development of regulatory frameworks with the highest standards of privacy, safety and cyber security, while promoting an open internet and digital market that upholds citizens’ right.
The European Commission’s Head of Unit, Western Africa, Ms. Francesca Di Mauro, said, “this digital economy package will take the EU-Nigeria partnership to the next level, working together to make the most of the opportunities of the data economy.”
Mauro also said the EU, “will support the development of the skills needed for Nigerians to succeed in the digital economy, with a focus on youth and women.”
She said the Tony Elumelu Foundation truly combined everything that the EU, “stands for by promoting the private sector, women enterprise and focusing on youth.”
“We are precisely devoted to giving the youths a voice and opportunities. Year 2022 is the ‘Year of the Youth in Europe.’ As part of a €44 million grant to the Nigeria Jubilee Fellowship Program, the EU will support on-the-job training for young Nigerians in the ICT sector,” Mauro added.
On her part, the Managing Director of TEF, Mrs. Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, traced the foundation’s partnership with the European Commission to 2021 when the commission invested €20 million in African women entrepreneurship through the foundation.
Ugochukwu described as, “a bold first step to creating hope for young African women entrepreneurs who are brimming with innovation, brimming with creativity and brimming with entrepreneurial ideas. This intervention of the European Commission made the difference to many entrepreneurs on whether their ideas will go to the grave with them or be turned into a reality.”
She said Africa’s annual share of global investment in tech start-ups was still very negligible at less than one per cent of what start-ups could raise in the United States of America, in spite of the World Economic Forum’s estimate that $1.2 billion, representing over 300 per cent increase, was invested in tech start-ups in Africa in 2020.
“As high as that sounds, it is less than one per cent of what the USA’s startups raised. That shows that even if we are doing a lot in the continent there is still so much work to be done. That is why we are all here today.
“That is also the reason for the TEF partnership with the EU. We started in 2021 through E20 million (Euros) partnership to invest in women African entrepreneurs. And I am pleased to say that this partnership is moving forward.”
By Fred Ojeh, Arise News