Yaba Manifesto: Policy


#1

###Synopsis

Public policy is struggling to keep pace with change in technological innovation and advancement. Almost every sector of the economy is being ‘disrupted’ by innovative technologies and business models. This is a good thing as it leads to more consumer choice, and to cheaper, better services and products. It’s how progress happens. But it creates problems when new technologies or ways of doing business run up against outdated regulations.

To accelerate the contribution of the #Yaba cluster to economic development through value creation, we seek the engagement of all stakeholders in developing policies that inspire confidence in users while enabling and encouraging innovation. Our ability to create wealth from the wave of innovation and opportunities available to us with technology requires smart and 21st century appropriate policies.

@gbengasesan is the leader and moderator of this conversation. The live document of the policy article for the Yaba Manifesto is available to view here.

Use this thread to leave your comments, suggestions and concerns. Don’t forget to observe the rules. If you happened to stumble on this, an overview of the Yaba Manifesto is here for you to gain context. Thanks!


The Open Yaba Manifesto is here
#2

Let me start by saying that the process of getting a business registered in Nigeria could be better. Some people can’t afford a lawyer and go ahead to do this on their own. It turns out to be a nightmare! I experienced this late last year and the memories are still fresh. I know the CAC is trying their best to make to make the process of registering a business simpler and easier but there’s still a lot to be done.

Also, I think the tax levied on newly registered businesses should be reduced or waived for companies Startups between 1 - 3 years old. How can the government expect a newly established business that has not conducted any business officially to pay tax? I think this is ridiculous.


#3

Hello everyone,

I’d suggest that one of the outputs from this thread should be the registration of a Policy Lobbying Group with the Corporate Affairs Commission. The lobbying group will be run like as a distinct company with staff who will have the following day-to-day responsibilities:

  1. Interface with State Legislators, Federal Legislators, Federal Agencies, Local Government Agencies to execute new policies which will emerge from conversations in the Policy Pillar in this thread during the review period. For example, the Lobby Group can work with the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council, NIPC to have Software Development Industry, Artificial Intelligence etc designated as Pioneer Status industries so young startups in tech can enjoy the kind of tax holidays that the Dangote’s and selected non-tech companies enjoy to grow their business (and invariably attract investors).

  2. Catalogue all laws & policies that could benefit tech startups in the Yaba Cluster and beyond.

  3. Publish Policy briefs/Policy guides in engaging formats to enlighten entrepreneurs on how to access these policies. e.g, as a non-tech entrepreneur, how do you benefit from Nigeria’s Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Act (the IDITRA) a.k.a Pioneer Status law that gives up to 3-year tax holiday?

  4. Perform research for relevant committees of Nigeria’s bicameral legislature, Ministry of Science & Technology to weigh the immediate & remote impact of new technology-related policies on startups in Yaba & beyond to guide law making process.

  5. Carry out data-driven, fact-finding missions to find out why current technology policies are not yielding desired impact and put forth solutions to make existing policies work better. For example, aside from popular private sector driven Co-Creation Hub, the Federal Government began setting up Technology Incubation Hubs called TICs over 24years ago - in 1993. Why hasn’t this policy churned out world-class tech startups from the 26+ different incubation hubs funded annually by the FG till date? Yaba Cluster’s Policy Lobby Group can carry out a fact-finding mission on this question and propose an execution framework to the federal government to make the policy more effective.

Suggested Action Steps:

  1. Community amends/develops & potentially adopts solution
  2. Identify potential roles within the company to make if function effectively
  3. Create a priority list of 14 Quick-Win Policies to engage government on within the next 1year (2 per pillar in the Yaba Cluster Manifesto)
  4. Register/Set up the Lobbying company
  5. Launch company
  6. Publish quarterly report of the company’s activities openly online.
  7. Iterate & Improve

#4

I am sure I read or heard somewhere that the process is now a lot better. The same person said everything could now be done online. Sadly, I had a play around on the site and noticed it hadn’t been properly ‘tested’. I left my comments, but in our usual style - no acknowledgement. But the main gist was/is that things are so much better.


#5

The process is now better. But it could still be better!

And it’s a lie that the whole process can be completed online. You will need to file some forms at the High Court. Last time I checked, the High Court needs you to physically submit your forms. And what about the forms you take to FIRS?

When people read that they can register their business online, they usually think it’s an end-to-end thing but its not. In reality, there are still some bottlenecks that can be removed; especially with respect to other agencies that the CAC collaborates with to register businesses.

And about the comments, don’t even go there. We sent e-mails to CAC’s official e-mail addresses to file complaints; except they are going to reply tomorrow. Their facebook page too is practically dead; I don’t think they are active on Twitter too.

In general, websites of Nigerian Govt Agencies and ministries are whack jobs; you wonder who they pay millions to to develop such websites. Take a look at the N-Power Website and you’'ll see what I mean.


#6

Thanks for clearing this up.


#7

Nice one.

I guess this helps answer two questions that I have had for a while.

How can we take Yaba to Abuja ?
How can we bring Abuja to Yaba?

There is a need for collaborative policy development by both sides in other to encourage innovation. How can we make that happen?


#8

The government through LIRS and FIRS should give a tax exemption to startups within Yaba with a team number ranging from 3-15 members in a period of 3yrs after incorporation.

What this does is, the startups do not game the system and place a hold on recruitment. The second reason is, with a time bound tax exemption, startups will grow into tax-paying entities.


#9

Hello all,

My apologies for this late comment but thank you for the excellent conversation.

Let me quickly point us to a policy direction of the current administration that may be relevant to our conversation. The Acting President leads, and has signed some Executive Orders, in support of a Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) that seeks to address everything from registration to imports.

Have they done a good job at it? Well, experiences speak better here. Do they need to do more? Absolutely! One key issue, though, that has been raised here, is the huge gap between Yaba and Abuja. In my talks with government, I’ve heard some say “Yaba people are almost arrogant and don’t want to talk to us” and I now hear Yaba people say “Abuja needs to come to Yaba” so I think one thing we can do as we work on this pillar is set up an initial conversation between Yaba and Abuja, and then build a consistent channel of communication between both. It’s a win-win, really.

As we continue discussions here, and work on the manifesto, is this conversation something that will be of interest to folks here, at least to get policymakers in the room with us in Yaba to discuss the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) and other policy-innovation intersections? I imagine the interaction will give us a good picture of where we’re at (reality vs plans) and we can build the future (manifesto) on that, and the ideal place we should be.


#10

Hello Gbenga we would like PEBEC members to follow this thread, if any of you know them let them follow and join in the conversation.

Yaba,Lagos is not the only cluster, we also need this as a template for business clusters elsewhere but with pioneer status to Yaba, key take aways.

  1. Registering , Tax and Structure of Business: Ability to register business under 24hrs, Tax Registration and Tax break for at least 2-3 years depending on nature of business for startups at least under 48hrs, Helping structure business with help of startup lawyers for important internal documentations based on experience they can choose best style that works for them( should be ongoing and can be a paid service although rebated from the Govt)
  1. Setting up, Office space, Networking and Funding: Startups need office space so policies that enable clusters of startups to get office space cheap or creating hubs they rent from, networking and exposure to Chambers where they can strike partnerships, helping create deal rooms where they can access startup funding( angel, seed, series A etc)

  2. Policy Regulation: Meeting between PEBEC and Yaba Community can be done quarterly and offline once a year to enable feedback, tracking of impact on policy.

  3. Measure: KPIs, Tracking of Impact


#11

@gbengasesan How would you propose sir, that we kick off the conversations? I’m not too sure that the PEBEC members would be opportuned to follow this thread. Is there a way, the volunteer committee can have a brief with them and give feedback on their stand and opinions to the house?


#12

@Engr_Abel_Akeni I must commend your suggestions and ideas on all the threads, they are very detailed and progressive. What volunteer committee do you belong to? I’m sure a lot of committees would want to steal you.
I’m not too convinced however if executing our approach by creating and registering groups and companies, that might spur self-interest oriented ambitions and create unwanted bureaucracy. When the process of execution is complex, implementation might never happen.

With regards to the policy pillar, I agree with the cataloging of laws and policies that affect our industry directly or indirectly, that would make it easier to identify the key policies to push for in this first phase of growth.


#13

Hello everyone,

Gbenga has made a very important comment with respect to the work of PEBEC and importance of win-win engagements. In reviewing key policy areas that impact not just Yaba but all startups in Nigeria, it is important to be very aware of the key steps the government has taken in these areas, the achievements made (no matter how minute), the progress needed to be achieved and key metrics that we need to see to show that there are indeed improvements in these steps.

Important Things to Note:

  1. What do we mean by Government: The Government is not just Abuja, it is Alausa, Agodi, etc. Often times we focus on the federal level when there is significant influence and impact with respect to not just the federal government but in particular sub national governments i.e. state and the local government on the growth, progress and development of “Yaba”. So as we are looking northwards, we must also seek to improve local government engagement.

  2. On Taxation: The government is legally required to collect over 40 taxes from Businesses. Only about 9 of these are Federal taxes. Most of the others are from State and Local Government. It is easy for Startups to hide under the shadow of co-working spaces and Hubs within Yaba but when they start to set up their own physical shops they will become more targets to tax authorities particularly with the increased drive on tax collection and with the knowledge that a number of Startups within the area receive funding support from local and international sources. Key improvement areas required specifically for tax are Reducing taxes paid by StartUps; Removing duplicate taxes across the three (3) tiers of government; Publishing all required taxes online particularly at the state and local levels; Development of an online/mobile tax assessment/calculator tool to enable knowledge of tax due (i.e. what am i meant to pay, to whom and when/how frequently); Ensuring Point of Sale collection for all taxes with immediate receipt issuance particularly for state and local taxes; and Instituting tax incentives for sectors like Technology.

  3. The Role of NASS: The role of the National Assembly in impacting Policy cannot be underemphasised. There are quite a lot of critical issues that cannot be resolved without the involvement of NASS. A very good example is funding. There are two major bills right now around Access to Finance that require passage. For all the tax issues listed above, most of the ones around reduction and rates cannot be facilitated without NASS ascent. Here again engagement is crucial.

  4. Information: How conversant are we with the exact policy issues? To engage with government, you need to be very aware of what they have done and not done and who is already doing something and engaging them in that space. While the Yaba entrepreneurship ecosystem is tech focused, the issues faced regarding policy cut across all key sectors some of which these startups seem to improve and scale. For a status of the work of Pebec through the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES), here is the 60 day report. Actually, my other issue around policy is information dissemination. How many people know some of these improvements/results achieved to date. So many people are still unaware that you can now search for a business name online.

  5. Technology: I honestly think that some of the practical issues are very clear and the frustration for startups and entrepreneurs is that the challenges e.g. searching for a business on CAC online were so simple to address, it defied logic on why it took ages to address. There was a hackaton that took place recently by PEBEC to get solutions on some issues around improving the business environment through tech. It will be useful to find out what the outcome of this effort was and what support is/can be given. Also, is there a way for an active support with EBES work. Can there be a voluntary support from this community to strategically support EBES with the development of techology tools to improve policy making, advocacy, implementation and monitoring?

  6. Engagement through Research and Partnerships: This is the key for me to make progress in the development. I think (please correct me if i am wrong) there is a perception that Yaba can exist and scale without Government at all the three tiers. It cannot. Some ideas have not been able to go beyond prototype because of public sector approvals required. There are edtech solutions which require FME approval to impact most Nigerian students but this is not forthcoming. Like it or not, given the way our government system is structured, the effectiveness of technology particularly in key social sectors like education and health require significant policy maker/regulator engagement. For effective policy advocacy and results, there is a need to engage with all the different stakeholders as required. Something we realised at FATE Foundation is that effective engagement for policy advocacy has to involve data and partnerships i.e. your advocacy has to be on the basis of factual data/information and insights into the exact causes you are advocating on and also ensuring partnerships with result driven groups/coalitions. In 2015, we embarked on working on Tax Advocacy since that was the number one issue our entrepreneurs have. After a lot of work to dissect the exact issues around taxes, we set out to look for platforms already pursuing engagement in that space because we do not want to do it alone and came across a Tax Coalition that was funded by a DFiD programme called ENABLE, had the National Association of SMEs involved and also had Tax Consulting support from Deloitte. Although the timeline seems to be a long one, one of the successes made to date is finally getting the listening ear of FIRS with respect to federal government taxes and eventually some waiver concessions for certain timelines. This journey is still a long one that will eventually take the Coalition members to the National Assembly but one of the key things that has worked for engagement that engagement is for the work shown to indicate how improvements in tax policies for small and growing businesses particularly startups will help to improve the revenue being generated from taxes in the long run essentially a win-win.

You need champions within this regulatory space and some of this can be through Dr. Jumoke Oduwole in EBES/PEBEC, the Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council which Iyin Aboyeji is part of, also through the MSME Council and definitely through the Nigerian Economic Summit Group.

If the policy lever is right, most of the other key issue areas will experience significant improvement whether it be research & innovation, talent or funding. However, this part is the one that also requires serious commitment, doggedness, focus and willingness to work and engage with people who are very different from our regular Yaba pool. It can and should be done, otherwise, without Policy, the ecosystem will never scale to achieve it’s potential.


#14

#15

Greetings to everyone,

It has been an absolute thrill reading the comments and contributions made to the Policy Creation pillar of the manifesto. It goes to show our depth of thought and our yearning for progress.

The great ideas proposed, if properly implemented, can truly grow our tech ecosystem and greatly increase the quality of products.

What are the next steps?

Over the next week (Aug 7th - Aug 18th), the volunteer committees for each team, coordinated by pillar leads would collate all the suggestions made here and across social media. They would refine it and make the additions to the existing draft.

We are using this opportunity as well, to ask people who are interested in being volunteers for each pillar to do so by dropping their email addresses. You would be contacted by the pillar leads.

After the collation of all elements of the manifesto, the committees would create a sample implementation plan for executing the ideas we have proposed during this process.

Simultaneously, Dele Bakare and his team would create the website that would house the manifesto.

Further information about the progress of the manifesto would be provided as time goes by.

Shoutouts to everyone who contributed to this thread; @simioluwatomi @Engr_Abel_Akeni @Chikere @nke_ise @Caligula @gbengasesan @Freshboi_Ekundayo @Nike_Adeyemi , if possible I would advise we indicate interest to be a volunteer and take a part in seeing these ideas to fruition!!

Cheers,

Francis Sani. (Manifesto clerk)