Last week, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Nigerian startup act. The legal instrument will fuel startup growth in Nigeria according to many who were part of the process in Nigeria. Communications volunteer for the Nigeria Startup Bill Project, Stephen Edache, said: “This ground-breaking achievement will usher in a new era and set in motion new rules of engagement for the startup ecosystem. Crucially, it brings an end to some of the challenges that may have held the startup ecosystem back since its rapid rise within the last decade.
“The Nigeria Startup Bill, now an act, positions the startup ecosystem to thrive through its targeted provisions. These policies, collaborative in their making, will now guide the operations of startups in Nigeria. The President’s assent makes it one of the most historic pieces of legislation in Nigeria.”
The speed with which it has been developed illustrates how startups are perceived in Nigeria. In October 2021 a draft of the bill was submitted to the Presidency and the Federal Executive Council (FEC). By December 2021 the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the bill. In February 2022 the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, passed the bill to the National Assembly. By March 2022, the bill reached the National Assembly and was received by the Nigerian Senate. In June 2022, support for the bill came from Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous state, which announced plans to host the bill at the state level. A month later the Nigerian Senate approved the bill and passed it to the House of Representatives. During the same month, the House of Reps passed the bill to the President for approval. It then took President Muhammadu Buhari a few months to sign the bill into law by October 2022. President Buhari has taken this process seriously to an extent that he will now serve as the Chairman of the Council for Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship which will oversee the implementation of the act. The Nigeria Startup Bill draft was created by the Nigerian presidency, in collaboration with 30 tech leaders including Ventures Platform founder Kola Aina and Future Africa founder Iyin Aboyeji, NITDA officials, and the minister of digital economy Isa Pantami. The South African technology community can only dream of such support from the highest office in the land. Although the process of getting the startup act in South Africa started earlier, the Nigerian process has moved swiftly to a point of being signed into law. The concept of having a Startup Act in South Africa was birthed at an event backed by the French government, AfricArena Conference, in November 2020. The months following the conference saw the formation of the Startup Act Steering Committee, which aimed to guide the process toward a Startup Act and SiMODiSA, an organisation formed by local tech ecosystem players, was selected by the ecosystem to be the Secretariat of this endeavour. What has taken South Africa such a long period of time to get the proposed startup act into law? One reason could have something to do with the proposal to scrap B-BBEE requirements for technology startups and the proposal to easily allow tech startups to easily hire and fire employees. The rest of the proposed act is progressive and seeks to make life easier for local technology startups and high-growth companies. Is it time for SIMODISA to revise its proposed startup act and align it with laws of the land on economic empowerment and fair employment conditions? or is it time for SA President to sign the proposed startup act into law and prevent the bleed of local startups who are opting to establish themselves in places where there are friendly startup laws such Delaware, US?
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