In a vibrant display of technological prowess, the two-day StartupSouth 8 event unfolded in the heart of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria, with a fervent focus on AI dynamics, innovation-driven economies, and effective policy interventions. As the tech ecosystem in Nigeria continues to thrive, one of the panel sessions offered profound insights into the transformative power of artificial intelligence (AI) and the vital role of policy in shaping its impact.
The panel, moderated by Chinwe Michael, correspondent, Fintech Desk at BusinessDay Media, featured a distinguished lineup of speakers including Yau Garba from the National AI Centre, NITDA; Kehinde Ogundare, Country Head at Zoho Nigeria; Silva Opuola-Charles, President of Garden City Premier Business School; and Uche Egbuzie, Regional Marketing Manager at Airtel Nigeria.
AI: Complementing, not replacing, the workforce
Uche Egbuzie, from Airtel Nigeria, dispelled the notion that AI’s rise would lead to job displacement. He emphasised that AI’s integration in the workplace is about augmentation, not replacement. As AI assumes routine tasks, human workers must evolve to tackle more complex and creative challenges. Egbuzie praised the government’s proactive approach to technology and urged more investments in AI.
Data and Ethical AI adoption
Yau Garba, representing the National AI Centre, NITDA, emphasised the significance of data in AI regulation and ethical adoption. He acknowledged that acquiring data from private companies posed challenges but expressed optimism about collaboration with the Nigerian Data Protection Commission to navigate this hurdle.
Education’s role in AI innovation
Silva Opuola-Charles of Garden City Premier Business School underscored the critical role of education in supporting AI-driven innovation and nurturing a knowledge-based economy. He emphasised the need for alignment between classroom learning and real-world application. Opuola-Charles also lauded the success of tech firms like Abeg, Moneypoint, and Flutterwave, comparing their performance favourably to conventional banks. He said that collaborative efforts like StartupSouth could lead to exponential growth in Nigeria’s economy, projecting it to exceed $3 trillion in just three years, with adequate government investments and policies.
Public-Private collaboration: A catalyst for AI adoption
The panellists concurred on the importance of public-private collaboration in harnessing the potential of AI. Egbuzie highlighted the untapped resources and opportunities available through partnerships with fintech companies. He cited the government’s successful policy of requiring National Identification Numbers (NIN) for SIM card registration, which curbed criminal activities, as a testament to how government intervention can drive AI adoption.
A bright future for Nigerian tech ecosystem
StartupSouth 8 showcased not only the thriving tech ecosystem in Nigeria but also the potential for AI to elevate it further. The insights shared by the panellists underscored the need for a harmonious convergence of tech hubs, particularly between Lagos and Port Harcourt. As the nation continues to embrace AI and thoughtful policies, the tech ecosystem may become self-sustaining, paving the way for unprecedented growth and innovation, ultimately leading Nigeria into a new era of technological prosperity.
StartupSouth 8 illuminated a promising path forward for Nigeria’s tech ecosystem, with AI dynamics, innovation, and effective policy interventions taking centre stage. The panel discussion, featuring distinguished experts, painted a picture of a future where AI complements human ingenuity, data is harnessed ethically, and education fosters innovation.
The resounding message was clear: collaboration between the public and private sectors is not just beneficial but essential to fully harness AI’s transformative potential. With Port Harcourt’s tech scene on the rise and a convergence of tech hubs in sight, Nigeria stands poised to chart an impressive course towards a thriving, AI-driven economy, where innovation knows no bounds. StartupSouth 8 served as a testament to the nation’s tech prowess and the boundless opportunities that lie ahead.