Bosun Tijani, the tech entrepreneur and co-founder of CcHub, has been appointed as Nigeria's Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy. His appointment, with a few exceptions, breathes much-needed industry experience into President Tinubu’s newly minted ministerial cabinet. As Tijani steps into this new position, he faces a series of unseen challenges that extend beyond the tech startup ecosystem he helped build.
Bosun Tijani's tech journey spans academia and industry. His robust academic background includes a diploma in Computer Science, a B.Sc. in Economics from the University of Jos, a Master's from Warwick Business School, and a PhD in Innovation and Economic Development from the University of Leicester.
Tijani has made significant contributions to the tech space. As CcHUB’s leader, Tijani transformed it from a local hub in Yaba to a pan-African tech incubator, empowering young entrepreneurs across the continent. He leads a billion naira growth fund for early-stage founders.
Navigating Bureaucratic Red Tape
Tijani's fast-paced startup background contrasts with the complex government system in Nigeria. Everything from process to speech is quite...different.
In many democratic societies, Nigeria included, open government criticism is seen as a fundamental right, but how the critique is received varies. Tijani has already had to apologise for past critical tweets during the senate ministerial screening.
His ability to understand the system, build relationships with politicians and civil servants with different interests, and translate innovative ideas into policies that will actually be implemented are key challenges.
Managing expectations across the tech ecosystem
While the startup community largely applaud Tijani’s appointment, they’re just a part of Nigeria’s technology ecosystem. He will also have to deal with the companies providing the infrastructure that powers the digital economy. Telecoms, data centres, cable providers, satellite internet providers, and traditional logistics companies.
Unlike the previous minister, Isa Ali Pantami, Tijani is seen as an outsider by some players in the telecom industry. Issues such as multiple taxation, right of way, and vandalism currently plague the sector, and all eyes will be on him to see how he resolves these issues.
Be the smartest in the room
There is, however, some benefit to being an outsider. Global technology provider, IBM, showed this in 1993 when they brought in Lou Gerstner, who had a background in the tobacco industry. Bosun could bring in that outsider perspective to challenge the status quo.
His presence could foster a synergy between several established companies in the space and tech startups. The success of his strategies will lie in a key component.
Overseeing key parastatals: A complex task
The minister of communications and the digital economy oversees parastatals including:
- Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC)
- National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)
- Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST)
- Galaxy backbone (GBB)
- Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd (NigComSat)
- Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC)
This oversight presents a complex task:
Working with Experienced Heads: Collaborating with experienced figures at the NCC, NITDA and NIPOST is not going to be challenging. The President may appoint new heads for these parastatals. Who they are, and Tijani's ability to work with the new leadership will be critical factors.
It’s worth noting that Bosun has worked with various government parastatals and served in committees in the past to varying degrees of success. Working from inside will be a different test.
Many infrastructures that startups rely on, such as the Internet, logistics, and digital identity, are tied to these parastatals. Tijani's leadership and collaboration with these entities will have far-reaching implications for the startup ecosystem.
He will have to embark on the delicate dance of striking the right balance between encouraging technological innovation within these parastatals and maintaining regulatory stability.
Tijani's appointment as Minister of Communications and Digital Economy is a landmark moment for Nigeria's tech ecosystem. However, he faces multifaceted issues and his ability to resolve them could make or mar his time as minister, and the experience for Nigerians.
Stay tuned for a deeper analysis of these challenges in our upcoming feature article. If you would love to offer expert insights, please hit me at [email protected].