Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Uche Nnaji is the minister of innovation, science and technology – TechCabal


Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria. Image source: The World Economic Forum
Not many people know that Nigeria has two tech-focused ministries. The first is the Communications and digital economy ministry, headed by Bosun Tijani, and the second is the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology, led by Uche Nnaji.
When news broke last week that Bosun Tijani has been named Nigeria’s minister of communications, innovation, and digital economy, members of the Nigerian tech community were excited. Tijani’s appointment validates the growing tech industry. But what has been overlooked is that two tech-focused ministries oversee technology and the digital economy. The Communications and Digital Economy Ministry will create policies impacting Nigeria’s digital economy. The Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology will facilitate developing and deploying science and technology to drive Nigeria’s economic growth. Both ministries are an offshoot of the now-defunct Ministry of Information and Communications.
While Tijani will man the communications and digital economy ministry, Uche Nnaji is the minister of innovation, science, and technology. The former is expected to lead the implementation of two landmark policies—the Nigeria Startup Act and the National Digital Economic Policy and Strategy, while the latter will focus on improving research and development in line with the national development plan  2021-2015. 

In essence, Tijani will drive policies that directly impact Nigerian startups, while Nnaji will promote the use of science and technology across board. Based on President Tinubu’s policy document, Tijani will drive policies that will create one million new jobs in the ICT sector, among other things. At the same time, Nnaji will take on the implementation of government digital services. However, it remains to be seen how the new administration intends to pull these off. 
Tijani’s appointment signifies a new order in the Nigerian polity, but Nnaji’s is the opposite. The two ministers are expected to lead Nigeria’s digital revolution through policies and reforms. As such, sufficient experience in the tech industry is a no-brainer for the offices. 
Judging by his campaign manifesto, President Tinubu is bullish on the potential of Nigeria’s tech ecosystem, but his choice of a non-technical tech minister is interesting. Uche Nnaji Nwakaibie is a Nigerian politician and businessman. He was the governorship candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Enugu state at the 2023 general election. He lost the polls to Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
According to a profile included in his campaign manifesto, he has spent decades in the healthcare sector, specialising in the importation and procurement of healthcare equipment and technologies. He was reportedly the youngest and the first African to procure a computerized tomography (CT) scan in Nigeria in the mid-1980s.
He later ventured into politics and got elected as senator representing Enugu East senatorial zone in 1999 but unconditionally relinquished his seat. Nnaji also holds a record in public service, serving as a board of directors member at the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA).


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