The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it is collaborating with the Nigerian government through the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy for its new startup passport.
The initiative is being driven by the Digital Cooperation Organisation (DCO), a multinational Organisation established by the Kingdom. It was announced at the ongoing LEAP Technology Conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The DCO Startup Passport is expected to make it quicker, easier, and less expensive for start-ups to do business across borders, opening up potentially lucrative markets with a combined population of more than half a billion people.
“The Start-up Passport reduces administrative and financial burdens and accelerates corporate registration and other processes for entrepreneurs,” said Deem Al-Yahya, Secretary General of the DCO. Through this passport, they will be able to enter the markets of other DCO member states. This will further our mission of coordinating efforts and sharing expertise to grow the digital economy for the benefit of all nations.”
The initiative will be rolled out initially in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. There are plans to also rollout in Bahrain and five other countries. The Start-up Passport provides expedited entry and support in the markets of eight DCO countries.
The Nigerian side of the collaboration is being championed by Ali Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy who was accompanied to the event by heads of NCC and NITDA.
“The Digital Cooperation Organisation (DCO) has been very supportive to Nigeria and we are among the major beneficiaries of the initiative, ” Ali Isa Pantami told BusinessDay. “DCO gave us a slot at the conference for free, a pavilion for free, support in many areas for our startups and they have places to display their products. They are willing to listen to what they have been doing and see what they can do to support them.”
For participating Nigerian startups the initiative opens new opportunities in the Middle-East which has a combined population of more than half a billion people and a combined GDP of nearly $2 trillion.
While Nigerian tech companies have made significant inroads in expanding in Africa, access to markets outside the continent have often come at a steep price and sometimes many are discouraged from making the push. Startups in Saudi Arabia also experience the same difficulties according to the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Saudi Arabia, Ahmad Al Khowaiter. Hence, while many of them are tapping market opportunities within the Kingdom, expanding to other countries is not so simple. Part of the challenge is the long list of administrative processes required to establish a business in many countries.
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The Startup Passport is expected to bridge the gap by reducing administrative and financial burdens and accelerating corporate registration and other processes for entrepreneurs in one DCO member state to enter the markets of other DCO member states.
The passport provides expedited entry and support in the markets of eight DCO countries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa. The initiative will be rolled out initially in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Bahrain.
Faris Al Saqabi, Deputy Minister for Future Jobs and Capabilities, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said the choice of Nigeria as a partner is due to its leadership position in the digital economy in Africa. Nigeria has the largest tech ecosystem and attracted the most funding of any ecosystem in Africa in 2021 as well as the most number of unicorns.
“We are moving to the new economy and we cannot do it alone; you need your friends,” Al Saqabi said. “That is why we are having the DCO, the umbrella for these nations with more than a billion population and most of them are youths, entrepreneurs and innovators. So I don’t think we have any excuses to not be working together.”