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By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA-Co-founder and the Chief Executive Officer of social networking website, Facebook, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg has said that Nigerians were highly gifted in the Information Communications Technologies, ICT.
He said this after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The computer guru said he was impressed by the interest, energy and entrepreneurial spirit displayed by young Nigerians in all the ICT camps that he had visited in Lagos.
“I was highly impressed by the talent of the youths in the Co-creation Hub in Yaba. I was blown away by their talent and the level of energy that I saw,’’ he said.
Recall that Zukerberg was in Nigeria earlier in the week but left Lagos for Kenya amidst speculations that there were no government officials to speak with him.
But on Friday, he returned to Nigeria and met with the Buhari in a meeting also attended by numerous ministers including Adebayo Shittu, Ogbonnaya Onu, Okechukwu Enalemah and Lai Mohammed who are respective Ministers of Communications, Science and Technology, Trade and Investments and Information and Culture.
The president commended Zukerberg for sharing his technological ideas with the Nigerian youths, saying such was mostly needed at the time.
He said: “Nigeria has always been identified as a country with great potentials for growth, especially with our youthful population, but now we are moving beyond the potentials to reality.
“I am impressed by your simplicity in sharing your knowledge and wealth with those with less income.”
The President who noted that the simplicity of the rich American entrepreneur said that such was alien to Nigerian culture.
“In our culture, we are not used to seeing successful people appear like you. We are not used to seeing successful people jogging and sweating on the streets.
“We are more used to seeing successful people in air-conditioned places. We are happy you are well-off and simple enough to always share”, he said.
Meanwhile, Zuckerberg, who was dressed in black suit and neck tie also attended Aso Villa Demo Day, a programme organized to pick winners of innovative ideas in start-up businesses organized at the old Banquet Hall of the presidential villa.
He later said he was in Nigeria primarily to promote the penetration of “fast and cheap” internet connectivity, Express-wifi, that would help people create online businesses and reduce poverty.
He said: “It’s so inspiring to see what you have built here. This trip has really blown me away by the talents of young entrepreneurs and developers in this country, and making a difference and making a change.
“It reminds me of when I wanted to start Facebook. I wasn’t starting a company at the time but wanted to build something to see if it will work.
“And that is what I see people here do, pushing through challenges, building things that you want to see in the world.
“If it will help the company great, if it will help the country great. You are not just going to shape Nigeria and the whole of Africa but the whole world.
“So, what I will say to the winners today and all the people that participated is that I’m blown away by what you are doing. I believe in you and I look forward to seeing what you do and congratulations.”
Speaking also, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said that Zukerberg’s coming to Nigeria has inspired people.
“It is really exciting to have Mark Zugerberg with us. I think one of the great things you have demonstrated is that is possible to live your dream, is possible to make your dreams not just come true but co r true so fabulously that it will not only influence your environment but you will influence the whole world.
“One of the things you have done is really to create connectivity across the world so that people are really able to interact across tribe, race, countries and feel as part of one family and one faith. So I think that is one of great things that you have done.
“And your coming to Nigeria has been especially energizing not just for the young people but for everyone else. As you can seek I am on Facebook and the president is also on Facebook so we are one of the 17 million.
He commended the 30 persons who made the shortlist of the Aso Villa Demo Day and the three eventual winners who went home with various sums of money.
“This is the first Aso Villa Day but the next year will be bigger and better. I don’t know if we will be able to get Mark to show up for that but somehow of the other, we are going to keep him in the loop and let him know what we are up to and how and how progress we are making.
“This country is going to built and is being built on the energy and the innovation and on the creativity of the young people. Whenever young people say that they want to be included, I believe very strongly that today you are included and no one has a choice in that matter. Today, Technology has created a level playing field, technology has made it possible for you seated somewhere, in your office or living room to create wealth, to create connectivity, to create all manner of things across the world.
“So this is not like when I was 25 years. It is a completely new day and I think that there is so much hope, so much your generation are going to do and I am certainly looking forward to being a part of that. By the time I am 80 I hope that I will be in a position to have an app that will enable me follow what you guys are doing, seated somewhere in my village, enjoying life.
“I’m sure you are going to have a great future and I certainly look forward to working with as part of the government of Nigeria to ensure that all that your talents and abilities are put in e best possible use and we I’ll support you all the way.
“We are also looking forward to cooperating with Facebook, I’m sure that in the next couple of months we will be working out the ways we can cooperate especially with connectivity and some of the great ideas that Mark has to improving connectivity in Africa”, he said.
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