From BERNICE EKE, Abuja
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, received a delegation of Chinese entrepreneurs led by billionaire businessman and co-founder of Alibaba Group, Jack Ma.
Alibaba Group Holding Limited is a Chinese multinational company with investments in e-commerce, retail, internet, and technology.
Mr Ma is in Nigeria on the invitation of Vice President Osinbajo as part of the Federal Government’s efforts to promote technological innovation among young Nigerians as a means of job creation.
The vice president thanked Jack Ma for honouring the invitation he extended to him to visit Nigeria when they met at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
He told his guest that Nigeria has a very strong and innovative group of young men and women as well as older men and women who were increasingly interested in free enterprise, especially digital entrepreneurship.
He added that Nigeria represents an incredible opportunity and potential with a huge population of youths in the next two decades when the country becomes the third-largest in terms of population in the entire world.
“So, the potential is tremendous, it is an incredible potential that we have. So, we are at a point, and your coming is very strategic, in our trajectory and in the progress of our country”.
Osinbajo said that the Alibaba group had achieved a lot in terms of broadening the scope of business and activities for people everywhere.
“If there is anything you have achieved, for the politician, we say you have democratised business.
“It is a great achievement and I think it is something we will like to learn and benefit from, especially as we open up government businesses and transactions and make them more efficient for the use of our people.
“This is an exciting time for us and we are very happy that you are here and a lot of businesses and entrepreneurs are looking forward to you interacting with them later today.
Osinbajo spoke about some of the steps already taken by the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to support young Nigerians in the technology space in building skills and capacities to create opportunities for themselves and others.
The vice president, however, said the country had major issues around financial inclusion for a large number of people, especially those living in the rural area. He said making payments or doing financial transactions across the country presented a challenge that must be tackled.
Osinbajo expressed optimism that the programme called Broadband Connectivity for all by 2023 was basically designed to see how the country could deepen connectivity for all.
He said that the government had to build the e-infrastructure to make the programme happen.
“That it is also crucial because the government tend to be viewed with a great deal of suspicion; nobody is quite sure of what government is up to all the time.
“I think that the government can benefit from the efficiency that digital economy provides,’’ he said.
Mr Jack Ma, while speaking, said that Chinese entrepreneurs were bringing four `Es’ to Africa.
He said that the first `e’ was e-infrastructure; to support internet connection to all parts of Africa as it hoped that every young people, every small business should have a mobile phone to run their businesses anywhere, anytime.
“We hope to support e-entrepreneurs; we want to make entrepreneurs the heroes of the African continent, it is the entrepreneurs that promote business development in China; government support entrepreneur with the infrastructure they need.
“If the government is on e-government will be very efficient, transparent and the people will know what the government can do and the government will also know what the people want.
“The last and very important is e-education; in the next few days, we are going to have African e-entrepreneur prize; so all the African countries can apply for our awards.
“So, I am very happy to hear that four Nigerian entrepreneurs are right among the top 10 African entrepreneurs to be supported by Alibaba Group. We will be in the final competition in two days and I think Nigerian entrepreneurs will have a great result.
“It is just the beginning for us. Our job is to support entrepreneurs because we are all entrepreneurs; we are all founders of our own businesses in China,’’ he said.