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A Startup Law For Nigeria

 

The Nigerian tech space has largely been governed by unrelated laws since its inception. Entrepreneurs have only been taking the initiative themselves in order to innovate and provide solutions.


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Founders, investors, and employees in the tech space went with the flow using related regulations governing telecoms, banking, insurance, investment and intellectual property.

Owing to this anomaly, founders in the past have faced uncertain regulatory circumstances with their ideas and investments being jeopardized prematurely.

One of the more recent victims of the unregulated tech space in Nigeria was Providus bank and other startups such as BitcoinAfrika which either had to quickly pivot or shut down operations for a few days after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) banned dealing in cryptocurrency. Gokada, one of the pioneers of bike-hailing in Nigeria, had to pivot to delivery logistics after the Lagos state government banned its operations overnight in 2019.

To dispel fears of over-regulated domestic & foreign direct investments and sustain optimism about doing business in Nigeria, a few startup leaders are taking the bull by its horns. They are taking this proposal directly to the government by cooperating with some government officials rather than always waiting for government cues.

However, a Nigerian startup must reflect the country’s present reality. A basic startup law should create enabling conditions for businesses to thrive. Also, a good startup bill will bind startups to international standards on operations, ethics, standards, and ambition.

Kola Aina who is founding partner of Ventures Platform spoke at a virtual ecosystem town hall with the theme ‘Making Laws Work for Startups in Nigeria’ about a plan to ‘co-create an executive bill that will support the growth of our ecosystem.’

Other stakeholders who spoke at the event include Iyin Aboyeji, general partner of Future Africa and cofounder of Andela & Flutterwave; Adaeze Sokan, Ventures Platform’s Director of Strategy and Policy; and Adia Sowho, acting CEO of Thrive Agric.


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From the side of the government, Oswald Guobadia, senior special assistant to President Buhari on digital transformation; Ife Adebayo, special assistant to the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on innovation and entrepreneurship; and Jon Stever, managing director of a consultancy, Innovation for Policy Foundation (i4Policy).

While the president’s assistant on digital transformation, Guobadia maintained that President Muhammadu Buhari’s new year address reiterated a need for “an enabling environment to turn [young people’s] passions into ideas that can be supported, groomed and scaled”, he failed to highlight any definite steps taken in that direction since the January 1st speech.

Similarly, in April, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment announced that a draft National Policy on Startups was on the government’s agenda. If this has been in the works, then the more concise startup bill being drawn by these industry veterans would go a long way.

Kola Aina’s presentation at the virtual town hall indicated that the presidency intends to introduce draft legislation that will be based on a draft startup law by ecosystem leaders with input from federal and state stakeholders from the executive and legislative arms of government as early as August.

Aina also disclosed that consultations are already ongoing with the Lagos state government while a presidential advisory group on the proposed bill has been having meetings as well.

Aboyeji, on his part, said while most of the plans are still evolving at the moment, he is optimistic that something cogent will come out of the effort. He and Sowho also emphasised that a Nigerian startup bill that works can only be achieved with startups participating in the process.

To build a concise regulatory framework that can govern the operations and structure of startup tech companies in Nigeria, there is now a consensus that all hands must be on deck.

This is why the group organising the startup bill is welcoming people who are interested in contributing to the success of the bill to volunteer by sending an email to partners@venturesplatform.com.

Featured Image Source: Peerbits


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Macaddy is mostly a farmer in the day who also dabbles into technology at night, in search of other cutting edge intersections. He's on Twitter @i_fix_you

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