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The world’s largest undersea cable system, 2Africa cable, owned by Meta, parent company of Facebook, the American multinational technology conglomerate, is coming to Nigeria and will land in Lagos and Akwa Ibom, underscoring the United States footprints of support for the growth of technology in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Will Stevens, US consul general in Lagos at the weekend outlined a bouquet of steps, actions and programmes undertaken by both the U.S. government and U.S. private sector businesses which show an overwhelming endorsement of the technological advancement of Africa, and even more so, Nigeria.
Stevens, delivering a keynote, “Africa’s Development and the Future of Tech: The U.S. Role”, at Global Tech Africa conference in Lagos, seized the moment to extol the potential of Africa, one embodying huge untapped potentials in its people, and expressed US partnership with Africa to develop the continent’s technology ecosystem.
He said there was a long history of partnership between the US and Africa which has been an enjoyable one, noting that “core aspects of this relationship include seeking opportunities to increase two-way trade and investment, promote security cooperation, and support sustainable development.”
According to him, technology is now playing an ever-increasing role in deepening the relationship between the US and Nigeria, and its relationships across Africa. “We are using the latest technological innovations to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, in the areas of education, healthcare, agriculture, and other vital areas of development and economic growth,” Stevens said.
Apart from the U.S. government sector participation in the technological growth of Nigeria and Africa, Stevens said the U.S. private sector was also playing a vital role promoting technology in all sectors, noting specifically, that U.S. venture capital firms were investing heavily in Africa tech startups “with over 60 and 40 percent of venture capital funding in Nigeria and Africa respectively coming from the United States,” he pointed out.
According to him up to 60 percent of African startups are incorporated in the United States, and that this rises to 80 percent when considering Nigeria alone.
“In 2021, African startups raised $4.8 billion, this translates to an average of over $1 million every 2 hours! The United States accounted for over 40 percent of Africa’s VC funding in 2022 with over $2 billion injected into local startups. This year, while VC investments are globally on a decline, U.S. investors like Techstars, Y-Combinator, and 500 have closed over 100 major deals within the first 9 months of the year. By these numbers, it is indicative [that] we have a strong interest in supporting the growth of the digital economy of the continent and clearly, Nigeria is a key market,” Stevens assured.
He further disclosed that the U.S.-Africa startup/venture capital scene continues to be an immensely important mutually-beneficial bi-lateral corridor, noting that at the US Consulate in Lagos, “we work with numerous startups to facilitate their participation in incubator and accelerator programs, thereby connecting these Nigerian startups with global markets.”
Outlining other benefits besides the enormous investment figures, he said U.S. investments in African startups are having a positive impact on the continent as they go on to create not only jobs, but careers, boosting economic growth, and advancing innovation, adding that notwithstanding these successes, “we believe it is still Day 1 in the African tech sector.”
U.S. technology companies operating in Africa are also playing a crucial role in expanding the continent’s access to reliable and secure internet, he said, naming them to include Diaspora-led companies such as MainOne and other U.S. technology companies like Google and Meta, who has invested millions and partnered with governments to land undersea cables to bring internet speeds of up to 180 terabits per second to Africa.
According to him, Meta’s 2Africa cable – the largest subsea cable system in the world, with landings in Asia and Europe, is expected to land in 21 locations across 16 African countries including Nigeria in Lagos and Akwa Ibom, further underscoring that early in the year SpaceX launched Starlink in Africa.
“Today, 7 countries have received the low earth orbit satellite-based internet access service, with an additional 25 countries targeted by the end of 2024,” Stevens further disclosed.
He also disclosed that the US Commerce Department works with Nigerian companies to bring the latest technology to Nigeria, adding that the department also brings Nigerian investors to the US every year for the annual SelectUSA Investment Summit, which includes special tracks, networks, and mentorship opportunities for tech and women-led tech startups who want to grow their business in the U.S.
For anyone wondering why these investments in Africa, Stevens said U.S. investors see the potential for high returns as African startups are growing rapidly with many of them disrupting traditional industries.
“The quality of African entrepreneurs is very impressive, and investors are confident in their ability to build successful businesses that provide solutions to not only African problems but global problems. The African technology ecosystem is a beacon of hope, a testament to the potential of a diverse continent, and a beaming light revealing what Africa could become,” he stressed.
He specifically said Nigeria was reshaping the future of technology in Africa and that its youth are changing the world, noting that this was responsible for the statement made by Joy Basu, US deputy assistant secretary of state, who visited Abuja and Lagos last month to pursue opportunities to expand U.S.-Nigeria commercial and economic relationship, that “We owe it to the world to unleash Nigeria’s talent in service to solving the world’s greatest problems.”
According to Stevens, the United States believes that a digital transformation is underway in Africa, and it is consciously seeking to bolster its collaboration with the continent and stakeholders.
He also talked about the new initiative developed by the Biden-Harris Administration that was launched by President Biden at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in December 2022, called the Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA).
DTA seeks partnerships with African countries to expand digital access, increase U.S.-Africa commercial relations, support increased digital literacy, and strengthen digital enabling environments across the continent in line with the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy and the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, Stevens explained.
“The United States government has already invested $350 million into digital programming and intends to invest millions more under this Initiative. The DTA will also facilitate more than $450 million in financing to develop an inclusive and resilient digital ecosystem in Africa; harness the tools and capabilities of 18 U.S. government departments and agencies; and partner with African governments and a wide variety of other actors – such as the private sector and civil society – to make these investments transformative,” the U.S. consul general said.
The United States is invested in Nigeria’s technological success, and it is no exaggeration to say that Nigeria’s success is Africa’s success and Africa’s success is the world’s success.
The diplomat also spoke of how the U.S. was using technology to address pressing challenges in education, healthcare, agriculture, and other vital areas of development and economic growth, noting in particular that $20 billion has been spent in the last 15 years providing funding for primary healthcare programmes, water and sanitation activities, infection prevention and control, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and general health.