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Nigeria: FG seeks private sector collaboration to launch AI fund

The Federal Government of Nigeria is actively seeking private sector collaboration to establish an Artificial Intelligence (AI) fund, aiming to bolster the country’s technological capabilities.

The Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, revealed this development at the opening session of the Zenith Bank Tech Fair 2023 in Lagos. Tijani pointed out that Nigeria is trailing in AI due to the absence of substantial recent investments in the technology.

With the establishment of the fund, he expressed the ambition to transform Nigeria into a global leader in AI within the next four years. Emphasizing that this ambitious goal necessitates private sector support, he underscored that the government alone cannot fully fund this endeavor. “The application and development of AI is not something that has to be done by the government alone. And even when companies like Zenith Bank are thinking about efficient intelligence, it is important that you think of it in the context of your business. AI becomes more powerful and useful when we prioritize it as a society. 

“When we use it in education or in transportation, it allows companies like Zenith to try and do better and this is why as a nation, for us to plug the gap that exists now, we are launching an AI fund, where government and private sector will put money together to accelerate the development of artificial intelligence in Nigeria. 

“Nigeria is not going to be the last when it comes to this phenomenon. We believe in the next three to four years, Nigeria will be a global leader in artificial intelligence. And that’s why I believe that this gathering is important for every young person that is in the room today. Do not consider this event and other exciting events where you come to listen to fancy talks. Consider this the beginning of the future that you have to be part of the world and the Nigeria that we need to see is our collective responsibility. It is a Nigeria where technology gives us the opportunity to create tremendous value. And this is why we have to be grateful for events of this nature.” The Minister said.

 In his opening remarks at the Tech Fair, Zenith Bank’s Group Managing Director, Ebenezer Onyeagwu, expressed that the bank identifies as a technology company holding a banking license. He emphasized the importance of embracing technology for any company aspiring to maintain relevance in the future. “Any company that will be relevant either has to be a technology company or a company using technology towards the right unique set of data services. That is why we see ourselves as a technology company with a banking licence. For you to be relevant tomorrow, you must infuse a higher content of technology into your business.

“That was way about 12 years ago, we commenced the building of a new digital interface with the right capabilities and paraphernalia that whatever application you have, we can connect with you wherever you are on the surface of the earth. We’ve also built into this interface variable robust and very integrated middleware that will be very sensitive to calibrate in terms of latency requirements depending on the urgency of transactions. So, I will say we are ready,” the GMD said.

The Zenith Bank Tech Fair, which is in its third edition this year, will bring together tech stakeholders across the country to chart a new course for tech development in Nigeria.

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