Aso Villa Nigeria Demo Day and the Role of the Presidency

Yesterday, I stumbled on the website of the Aso Villa Demo Day, an initiative of the Presidency. I had previously heard of this but thought it was just being hosted by the Presidency to give the sector attention and much wider media coverage for the tech sector in Nigeria.

As someone who has run similar ‘initiative’ in a developed country, albeit private sector led, I have seen first hand the role of government and public bodies in the organising such.

The role of government is to lend credence to this kind of initiatives on a much wider basis for example to boost entrepreneurship in the society or to support a sector of the technology industry. They lend credence in a few ways. They host some of these events or they host the winners of these events. They use these events to promote sector related policies. They coordinate different groups businesses across different regions to achieve a common outcome like foster partnership among these groups.

The Aso Villa Day Demo does none of these things. From the website, it is reasonable to conclude that the outcome of this initiative is to pitch to Mr President. It even has a .gov.ng domain. Unless you are asking for government-related ideas, what makes the President a suitable judge of these pitches. There’s a mention of public and private investors but this just looks like an after-thought. If it were serious about investors, there are investor groups in the country that can provide members ready and willing to invest.

The outcome of the Demo Day is not clear. Is it a pitching for funding event or is it to choose the most innovative startups in Nigeria? Is it a conference (why have 12+ speakers) or is it a prize-giving day?

The whole initiative just looks like an attempt to be seen to be ‘cool’. Or else, the Presidency would have invited organisations like Tech Cabal, African Business Angel Network or Cchub to organise this and the Presidency host the event and give the sector and the winners a boost in local and international media.

It is worth noting that this is the second of such initiative that the Presidency has no business in organising. They want to institute a literary prize in poetry and short stories when the Etilsalat Prize for Literature has started off well and very well received.

With these initiatives, we already have private organisations organising such and doing it very well. Government should not be a competition to these initiatives.

In all these, I have used the contents of the Demo Day (avdd.gov.ng) website to project the intention of this initiative of the Presidency. In my experience, these two could be far apart. In that case, maybe communication is one of those things government should outsource.