Nigeria plans nationwide AI and blockchain research centers

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The Nigerian government, through the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has unveiled plans to establish research centers focused on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain across the country’s six geopolitical zones. 

According to local media, this initiative was announced by NITDA’s Director-General, Kashifu Inuwa, during the opening of the IoT West Africa Conference in Lagos. Inuwa, represented by NITDA’s Director of Corporate Planning and Strategy, Aristotle Onumo, emphasized the agency’s commitment to developing a strong technology research ecosystem.

Research centers to drive innovation

The planned research centers will target critical areas, including IoT, blockchain technology, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), additive manufacturing, AI, and robotics. Inuwa said:

“We are establishing a special-purpose vehicle that will look into these key areas and also establish research centers across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria that will be targeting these six key areas of emerging technologies.”

In addition to funding research, NITDA aims to support Nigerian startups in developing products using these emerging technologies. The agency plans to create innovation sandboxes to help startups develop use cases, establish businesses, and bring their products to market.

NITDA is also pivotal in building talent through the Nigerian government’s 3 Million Technical Talent (3MTT) program. The goal is to ensure that by 2027, three million Nigerians will have been technically trained and empowered.

Africa’s next Silicon Valley

Inuwa acknowledged that some trained individuals might leave the country, contributing to Nigeria’s talent exports and boosting foreign exchange through increased remittances. Shitij Taneja, Managing Director of Vertex Next, the organizers of the IoT West Africa conference, highlighted Nigeria’s potential as “Africa’s next Silicon Valley.”

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He cited the country’s vast youth population and vibrant startup ecosystem as crucial factors. The conference, co-located with Africa Data Center and Cloud Expo Africa, aims to attract investors to Nigerian startups focused on emerging technologies.

The United States and Nigeria recently announced intentions to engage in discussions on the digital economy, emerging technology and AI to explore potential partnership opportunities. These discussions aim to strengthen economic ties between the two countries and foster deeper collaborations in these areas.

The Nigerian government has also launched its first multilingual large language model (LLM) as it pushes forward to take a leadership position in artificial intelligence (AI) development in Africa.

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