Special Economic Zone

Talent City : How Nigeria’s Free Trade Zones could unlock Africa’s Digital Economy

February 22, 2023

Africa is the emerging giant tech hub of the world.

The evidence is everywhere: from news of a US$360 million Chinese investment in Nigeria's Fintech industry; to news that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will spend up to six months a year in Africa because Africa he says, “will define the future.'' By the turn of the century, a third of all people will be African.

Africa’s population will grow from its 1.2 billion today to 4.5 billion in the next 80 years. Nigeria will be home to 400 million people. This is double the number who live here right now. More than 60 per cent of these people will be city-dwellers or urbanites.

Lagos, a 110 square kilometre coastal city, is home to more than 17 million. The Lagos population will grow to more than 100 million by the turn of the century. Yet, Nigeria with a population of close to 200 million people has only seven cities accommodating more than a million people each.

Contrast this to India’s 46 cities with populations greater than a million, and China with more than 100 cities of at least a million people each.

Africa has an opportunity to build more sustainable cities for exponential population growth, but governments lack time and money to build them. This is why my team and I are building Talent City: a charter city focused on attracting the talent that drives technology, innovation and the digital economy.

This will be a charter city focused on creating technology-enabled jobs and managed within a free trade zone with its own productivity-focused, entrepreneurial-centred regulations and bylaws.

Nigeria's free trade zone laws give us a blank canvas to develop policies that are data-driven and evidence-based – free of complex socio-political or economically protectionist considerations. Doing this will ensure the appropriate policy environment for the best of African technology and innovation to emerge and flourish in this zone.

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