The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, has projected that Nigeria’s economy would go 21 per cent digital by 2021, as digitalisation is becoming the most adopted economy globally.
According to him, the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the importance of the digital economy in the growth of any nation, noting that it also underscored the need to fast track digital transformation in Nigeria.
Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria’s (CIBN) 2020 Graduates’ Induction and Prize Award’s Day, held virtually at the weekend, Pantami said the digital economy drive is focused on four key areas – digital identification, broadband penetration, smartphones, and bank accounts.
While stressing the need for professionals to develop more innovative digital tools and competencies, he noted that activities in the banking, customs, and ports sectors, including revenue collections were now digitised.
This is even as broadband penetration at the end of July rose to over 43 per cent, almost 10 per cent increase in less than a year, compared to the usual two per cent penetration witnessed in the years before.
He said the Ministry was working to ensure that indigenous digital solution providers and entrepreneurs get preference, as the current administration is committed to consuming what it produces.
“The latest Quarter Two (Q2) 2020 report recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), showed that the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector contributed about to 17.83 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), from 13.85 per cent in the same period of 2019.
“Yet, the digital economy was not included in the disclosed figure. If the digital economy was added, it would have risen well above 45 per cent to GDP,” Pantami added.
Earlier, President and Chairman of Council, CIBN, Bayo Olugbemi, in his speech, charged professionals to take advantage of the digital economy to shape the future of the banking industry.
He said it was in recognition of the important role the banking and finance industry plays in the growth and development of the economy that the Institute decided to x-ray the topic, “Digital Economy: The Role of Professional Bankers.”
According to him, COVID-19 accelerated the pace of the digital revolution, making it imperative for Nigeria to rethink its approach to the digital economy, which has become the new normal.
He maintained that technology has caused significant disruption in the financial sector, noting that the implication of the revolution to the Institution was that professional bankers need to acquire new skills, to be able to combine digital awareness with great people skills.
His words: “I believe that highly qualified, knowledgeable, skilled, dedicated, customer-focused banking professionals will shape the future of banking, as much as the new technologies that are transforming the financial-services industry will.”
Meanwhile, Olugbemi said about 1,864 candidates were admitted into the various categories of membership of the Institute, with 899 admitted into the ACIB, 41 into Chartered Banker MBA, 22 into MSc/ACIB, and 902 into Microfinance Certification programmes, cutting across countries like Nigeria, The Gambia, Ghana, Rwanda, and Sierra-Leone.
In her remarks, Guest Speaker and Academic Director, Lagos Business School, Prof. Olayinka David-West, said the digital economy was birthed alongside the Information Age, and represents the levels of economic activity from digital connections between people, businesses, devices, data, and processes.
She notes that although Nigeria’s financial services ecosystem recorded significant progress in areas like bank verification number (BVN), and Instant Payments, the surge in bank branches after the first phase of the lockdown presented some interesting challenges to the digital transformation of financial services.
David-West said: “When we compare financial inclusion levels with mobile telecommunications penetration or even internet usage vis-a-vis their maturity, we can see that again 100 years versus 20 years, we still have a lot of gaps to close.
“The informality of the economy and the dominance of cash still require innovative capabilities that extend beyond digitalising cash to developing financial solutions that really meet the needs of the larger population that we want to deal with.”
Amidst the realities of the digital economy and the future, she said while organisations are distributed, aggregating quality digital infrastructure at one location is inefficient, as some homes have become workplaces, which organisations need to accommodate.