Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on Wednesday inaugurated project ‘Next Innovation with Japan’ (NINJA) Startup Gateway to support startups towards addressing societal issues.
NINJA is the first of its kind in Nigeria, an initiative of JICA aimed at supporting entrepreneurs to create business innovation in developing countries.
It is also an incubation programme targeted at encouraging young Nigerians to address issues through software, hardware and the use of emerging technologies.
The project inauguration was in collaboration with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and with Aiivon Innovation Hub, Abuja as the implementing partner.
The Manager, Aiivon Innovation Hub, Ama Ase, while introducing the project, said prospective participants, companies, would enter the programme by developing a scalable product to solve a definite issue within their community.
According to him, their businesses would have to be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
He said that implementors of the project would provide mentorship to participants, guiding them into developing ideas for commercialisation and economic growth of the country at large.
Mr Shohei Sato, JICA Nigeria Representative, said “NINJA Startup Gateway aims to solve social problems through businesses by supporting Nigerian youth and accelerating their businesses.
“In NINJA Startup Gateway, we would like to contribute to the Nigerian society by creating a profitable and sustainable business.
“We are looking at supporting five selected companies with 8,000 dollars as a form of contract to support their business ideas and it will also help grow the Nigerian economy.
“NINJA Startup Gateway also allows for the creation of jobs and several opportunities for the youth, the youths will create the jobs instead of finding them,” he said.
Sato, also said that the project was aimed at developing the innovative private sector of the country.
Oguntade Oludapo, Senior Innovation Officer, National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) of NITDA, said that the agency had initiated policies and programmes to support startups and entrepreneurs in the country.
Oludapo said that the agency established NCAIR last year to support innovation-driven entrepreneurs for the digital economy.
“NINJA Startup Gateway is to encourage innovations solving the prominent problems of the society by utilising emerging technologies.
“Innovative startups contribute significantly to economic growth and employment nationwide.
“It also helps develop new and innovative solutions to challenges faced by traditional industries through cross-sector innovation, thereby creating a more dynamic and competitive society,” he said.
Attah Samson, Chief Executive Officer, Aiivon Innovation Hub, said startups at their incubation stages were eligible to be part of the programme.
He added that they should have innovative ideas with either service or product level ideas.
Samson said the selection process would be open and that the selected startups had the opportunities to represent the country in international events organised by NITDA and get exposure to boost their businesses.
JICA coordinates official development assistance for the Japanese government in developing countries.
Its aim is to promote international cooperation by supporting the socio-economic development, recovery or economic stability of emerging economies.