Special Economic Zone

Discovering Itana: Your Gateway to the African Digital Economy

May 9, 2024

Itana is building Africa’s first digital zone — the ideal business jurisdiction for global and pan-African technology and service-oriented businesses to remotely incorporate, operate, and scale across Africa, thereby unlocking the continent’s digital economy.

Free Zones or Special Economic Zones is a global concept where countries or states dedicate specific areas for special business and trade laws from the rest of the country with the aim to drive rapid economic growth. Although this is typically designed for traditional industries and manufacturing companies, there has been a rise in free zones for technology and service-based companies such as e-Estonia, Delaware, and Dubai International Financial Center.

Nigeria has 26 operational free zones, and Itana is the first zone dedicated to technology companies.

Itana is designed for the builders of tomorrow

As the world undergoes a rapid digital transformation, and every aspect of business, commerce, and life takes place online, companies can virtually set up in a location that they do not physically exist in. Itana is designing an ideal jurisdiction that focuses on optimal business laws and ease of incorporation for three main categories of companies.

1. Technology companies

Global technology companies that are looking to set up and operate or hire talent in Nigeria or Africa can take advantage of the Itana Digital Zone for its remote incorporation processes and ecosystem support.

Companies that already have operations in the country but looking to streamline operations may also benefit from setting up an Itana Free Zone Enterprise.

2. Services companies

Service-orientated businesses with pan-African and/or global clients that may require the ability to establish FX controls and easy transfer of capital. These might include business consulting and advisory, marketing, design & PR, finance, and investment services.

Itana’s vendor marketplace also provides the opportunity for partnered vendors to access an ecosystem of global clientele.

3. Startups

Global and local startups at launch or growth stages that are building in Nigeria can benefit from Itana’s robust community network and support.

Itana is built upon three key pillars: Governance, Community, and Infrastructure.

Governance: collaborating with governments to design the ideal business regulations

Itana is collaborating with several governments and agencies to develop and operationalize Africa’s first Digital Zone.

For example, free zones in Nigeria are governed under the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) Act of 1992. In January 2021, ‘virtual city’ was successfully included in the NEPZA Act by the Third Schedule Amendment Order, 2021.

This amendment empowered NEPZA to engage Itana in 2022, to develop and pilot the framework for Nigeria’s first free zone for digital, technology, and financial services businesses. In August 2023, Itana was registered by NEPZA and licensed to operate as a Virtual Free Zone Management Company (ZMC), the first of its kind in Nigeria.

With these, tax and other incentives provided in the NEPZA Act are now extended from traditional free zone entities to digital, technology, and professional services companies registered within Itana. This will enable them to capitalize on, reinvest in, and expand their business operations in Nigeria and across Africa.

Represented by Luqman Edu (CEO Itana), DiFZIN signed an MOU with Charter Cities Institute in Kigali, 2023.

Itana is also a member of the Digital Free Zones in Nigeria Initiative (DiFZIN), a nonprofit organization established to support the Federal Government in the development of a regulatory, policy and operational framework for digital free zones. DiFZIN is made up of a consortium of organizations including Africa Finance Corporation, PwC, Charter Cities Institute and Future Africa.

DiFZIN’s primary goal is to promote ease of doing business in Nigeria, increase employment, and bring jobs to Nigeria’s large and rapidly expanding talented tech workforce. Which will attract foreign direct investment (FDI), and the the inflow of FX capital into Nigeria's economy.

Community: a dynamic group of leading innovators and operators on the continent

Cross-section of founders at the Itana community soiree in January 2024

Itana is curating a community of leaders and innovators of digital businesses building on the African continent. The Digital Residency is a virtual community of over 3,000 founders, investors, operators, and senior stakeholders who believe in the future of Africa and want to leverage its opportunities to grow and their businesses.

Itana Digital Residents gain access to several benefits including key information about doing business on the continent, a network of like-minds to collaborate with and learn from, and vetted services to support your business.

Infrastructure: a 72,000 sqm eco-friendly “live-work-build” campus in Lagos, Nigeria

Located in the economic capital of Africa — Lagos, Nigeria — yet away from the busy city life, Itana is building an eco-friendly environment that fosters creativity, collaboration, and community for the digital economy.

The Itana District will be a model of the future for African cities and will feature workspaces, residential blocks, sustainable parks, lifestyle and recreational amenities, and more, all powered by a fully integrated digital app that unites every aspect of life.

The Itana ecosystem will have access to our flagship 72,000 sqm “live-work-build” campus with residential, co-working and an in-house accelerator program led by Future Africa.

Setting up your business in Itana

In 2020, Iyin Aboyeji (co-founder of Andela and Flutterwave) reached out to Luqman Edu (CEO of Itana) about an idea he’d be nurturing.

Several iterations and a name change later, Itana offers unparalleled ease of doing business for emerging and established digital services businesses to launch, grow, and operate a flourishing global business from Nigeria.

As a Free Zone Enterprise registered in Itana, you get access to:
  • The Nigerian & African markets: Gateway to doing business in the largest economy in Africa and the rest of the continent. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will provide the ability for businesses in Itana to operate across the continent.
  • Remotely incorporate and operate: One-stop-shop online platform to register the business with a virtual mailbox and access government and business services e.g. banking, tax filing, business visas, marketplace, and business licenses.
  • Foreign ownership: 100% foreign ownership of businesses.
  • Tax benefits: Tax benefits on corporate income tax, dividends, and VAT.
  • Protection against currency volatility: Earn revenue and pay employees in foreign currency to avoid FX volatility.
  • No restrictions on capital repatriation: No local restriction on the repatriation of capital (business income) out of Nigeria to other countries.
  • No expatriate quota: Easy process to obtain Nigerian work permits for international talent, with exemption from expatriate quota.

Some additional benefits

  • Physical district (2026): An eco-friendly live-work-build district in a free zone and a live-in accelerator program. A physical hub to network and build lasting relationships; an enabling environment for collaboration and innovation.
  • Community: A vibrant network of innovators, operators,  businesses, and industry leaders building Africa’s future.

How to set up your business in Itana

  • Application
  • Incorporation
    • Once your application has been approved, complete your legal incorporation documents and feasibility report (we provide templates). You’ll then be required to pay an incorporation and operating license fee of $1,250. This fee is refundable if there are any issues with your documentation.
  • Registration Certificate
    • Upon successful approval, a certificate of registration will be issued and you can begin operations as a Free Zone Enterprise. Access our vendor marketplace and start operating your business with ease!

Kindly note that you may be responsible for your own legal fees associated with incorporation.

Also note that additional service fees may be required to access additional business services such as banking and immigration.

Get in touch, we’re always happy to help! 💚

We’re excited about the future of Itana, and the opportunities it stands to unlock for the digital economy of the African continent. If you’d love to learn more about the Itana Digital Zone, and how you can leverage it to drive your business growth? Read our Frequently Asked Questions or send us an email at support@itana.africa. We're always happy to help! 💚


The people behind Itana: Founders, Government, and Private Sector Partners

The concept of Itana was conceived by Iyin Aboyeji, co-founder of Andela and Flutterwave. His vision was to create a city and ecosystem where technology and startup companies could not only operate but also thrive, collaborate, and innovate.

Special Economic Zone

Discovering Itana: Your Gateway to the African Digital Economy

Itana is building Africa’s first digital zone — the ideal business jurisdiction for global and pan-African technology and service-oriented businesses to remotely incorporate, operate, and scale across Africa, thereby unlocking the continent’s digital economy.