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Nigeria Ministry of Communication changes name to include Digital Economy. Is this Pro Crypto? Industry participants express opinions

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The Nigerian ministry of communication has changed its name from the Ministry of Communication to Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy.
With the name change comes a widened scope for the ministry which is imperative in the dynamic world in which we currently live.
The Digital Economy is wide and globally, Nigeria is one of the top cryptocurrency markets as indicated by trading volumes and keyword searches.
What does the move by the Ministry means for the digital economy especially, the Crypto Industry in Nigeria?
The approval for the change of name was given by the President, Muhammadu Buhari on the 23rd October, 2019 through a letter which showed the request for the change of name was consistent with global best practices and will further reflect the preferences of the current administration.
The decision for the change according to a statement signed by a Deputy Director, Mrs Philomena Oshodin, the name has been changed to “The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to further expand its mandate to capture the goals of digitalisation of the Nigerian economy in line with the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (EGRP), one of the key agenda of the present administration.”
The old name “Ministry of Communication” according to the Minister Isa Ali Pantami, has become obsolete and limit the scope of the ministry in the current digital age as emphasized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The Minister, Isa Ali Pantami said further that the change in the name will propel the ministry to reposition its strategic objectives while increasing growth and social inclusion. This he said giving statistics to drive home his point. He said “ICT contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stood at 13.85 percent in the second quarter of 2019.”
Currently, Nigeria, from the available data transact on average a billion naira daily.

This value excludes peer 2 peer exchanges between physical people that are not captured and this could amount to significant figure. However, working with the available data, Nigeria is a great market for cryptocurrencies and this has been validated by multiple crypto firms setting up shops in the country whether owned by locals or foreigners.
The decision by Binance, a leading cryptocurrency exchange to commence the acceptance of naira through its partnership with Flutterwave for the purchase of cryptocurrency on its binance.com platform also speaks in validating the claim that Nigeria is a significant market in the global cryptocurrency space.
Few days ago, Luno also announced it will allow its customers to start buying the second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, Ethereum on its platform. The move by Binance must have motivated this move.
The Minister said the goal for the change of name is to further expand its mandate to capture the goals of digitalisation of the Nigerian economy.
For Crypto enthusiast and those deeply rooted in the industry in Nigeria, this move could mean the Crypto will begin to receive the recognition it deserves in Nigeria. Or nothing whatsoever. This is mere speculations, Let’s consider what industry members have to say.

Lead Partner, Infusion Lawyers, Senator Ihenyen, commenting on the change in name said “Sometimes changing a name is mere nomenclature with little or no changes. But sometimes changing a name brings profound transformation. With the change to Federal Ministry of Communications & Digital Economy, I really hope it’s the latter.”

The Regional Manager for CoinCola, Samuel Joseph commenting on the decision by the ministry and its impact on the economy said;
The latest update from the minister / government is a step towards the right direction that I believe will accommodate growth in the digital space (possibly blockchain and cryptocurrency).”
Samuel Joseph who is also an ambassador for EOS went on saying,

“I hope to see actual blockchain and cryptocurrency strategy and implementation from the ministry. A country like dubai publicly made a commitment as far back as 2017 to fully implement blockchain application by 2020. I’m looking forward to seeing clear road maps and visions for the Nigerian digital space.”

Munachi Ogueke, CBO, YellowCard was of the opinion that the Ministry is not considering the Crypto industry in the “Digital Economy” but according to him,

I believe that it will eventually fall into their purview ……. the (Crypto Industry) is exploding, they will have no choice.”

Chiagozie Iwu, CEO of CI CryptoSolutions (owners of Naijacrypto) said the digital economy is the backbone of any country going forward, therefore, the change in the ministry is a “good sign and it shows the government realises that the digital economy has become too big to be ignored. According to him, “We ignore at our own peril.”
Emmanuel Etitim, Brand Manager for YellowCard commenting on the move by the Ministry is quoted saying

This move is unclear yet until we see them defining the roles of the ministry of communication and digital economy. But from the words right now. It could mean that all things that are said to be online businesses and activities could come under the purview of this ministry and I don’t know if it will be a good thing because I don’t remember the last good thing the government did for the people.

So usually given the recent moves by the federal government’s about taxes on so many things that shouldn’t even be taxed. I’m guessing this is likely to bring those activities that goes online under the taxable activity. Crypto, now is a very huge (part of the) Digital economy and Nigeria is the third global bitcoin holders and ranking number one in Africa. So this could mean good or bad depending on body language of the ministry to issues like this.

So I don’t see why it should be a bad thing if these (Government) people are well educated about something like this, but hopefully we (industry stakeholders) can come together and put pressure on the government not to use laws and regulations that are unfavourable to kill the industry; rather, they could look for ways to help like France that have cut down taxes on crypto, making it free.

So I should expect this to come on favorably in that sense you get enough for us if people (in the) industry can push a leg forward.”
Expressing confidence in the ministry, Senator Ihenyen, who is also the VC, Policy & Regulations of SiBAN said,
The new Minister, Isa Ali Pantami, has the capacity to make that transformation happen. Now what does this mean to Nigeria’s crypto industry? Since the Federal government is looking at the “digitisation of the Nigerian economy”, the question we must first answer is whether the Nigerian government considers the nascent crypto industry as part of the Nigerian economy. The answer, as it stands presently is NO.
Therefore, except the Federal government takes a fresh look at blockchain technology and its crypto application and then comes up with an innovation-support policy in that regard, the crypto industry may not benefit from the intended focus on Nigeria’s digital economy.”
And that will be unfortunate for a country with the 5th highest bitcoin transactions and a low level of financial inclusion in the world, Senator Ihenyen concluded. .
The world is changing at an unprecedented speed technologically and only those nations that adapt to the changing times will be able to compete in the global power market.
With Asia, America and Europe each running their race to achieve technological dominance which ultimately will tilt the scale of commerce in their favour, Africa and especially Nigeria should get its game face ready.
Nigeria is tagged the giant of Africa, as far as cryptocurrency trading volume goes, it’s still the giant. Is it? What does the future hold? That’s a question that is best left to time to answer.

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