2023 is a year where many companies from different sectors of the Nigerian economy hope to have something better to offer compared to what 2022 brought.

A BusinessDay article described 2022 as “a year to forget in Nigeria”. Many startups, oil companies, telecom operators, healthcare providers, banking institutions, and many others would readily agree. In fact, there are several things to forget, including technological innovations that didn’t turn out as people expected and bitcoin investments that went down the drain with the collapse of Luna and FTX.

For example, Nestcoin, a cryptocurrency company founded less than a year ago, wishes they hadn’t invested so much money in FTX.

54gene made a lot of money from the COVID-19 pandemic and was probably too reliant on the pandemic to keep giving. The company was not prepared and countries were struggling to overcome the pandemic. The result has been mass layoffs and the resignation of the founding CEO.

Five tech companies were forced to lay off staff at the end of the year. Globally, more than 150,000 tech workers have been laid off.

Also in 2022, telcos such as MTN and Airtel managed to recover from the massive subscriber drop of 2021 following the temporary ban on SIM registration. The two telecommunications companies also obtained 5G licences. MTN launched 5G services in 2022 and Airtel is expected to start its service in 2023. The industry jumped to 152.3 million internet subscriptions in November from 143.2 million in January.

Globacom did not win a 5G license nor did its payment services bank make a splash in mobile money, but it overtook Airtel as the second largest telco in Nigeria.

But the same cannot be said for 9mobile. The notable thing the telco has done was the launch of its 9PSB service in 2021 and a desperate push to add to its declining subscribers. 9mobile’s Internet subscriber base stood at 4.5 million in November 2022, up from 5.7 million in January.

2023 has started early for many companies; however, some experts say much depends on the outcome of the 2023 election. The loss of confidence among foreign investors experienced by many companies may change if the elections are free and fair.

BusinessDay looked at the technological innovations that could change the lives of Nigerians in 2023.

BVAS machines

Nigeria would go to the polls in February to choose the country’s next president. The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is not the first technology to be implemented in Nigerian elections. The country first implemented technology in an election in 2011, while the smart card reader was deployed in 2019. However, the BVAS is the first advanced technology that is expected to play a pivotal role in the election outcome.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it will deploy a total of 176,845 BVAS machines for the February 2023 general election. The commission would also provide 17,618 BVAS machines for backup, with two devices per registration area.

Using BVAS involves scanning the barcode/QR code on the permanent voter card/voter registration or entering the last six digits of the voter’s ID number or typing the voter’s last name by the assistant to the president to verify and authenticate the voter.

BVAS also acts as the INEC voter registration device during voter registration. Its use also eliminates the use of incident forms during accreditation on an election day. The success of the BVAS in the election would largely depend on the performance of the telecommunications infrastructure. It would also depend on the availability of electricity.

solar and lithium battery

Nigeria has had an abysmal output in the energy sector in its efforts to increase capacity on the grid. The country generates less than 4,800MW and electricity use per capita is 136 KW/h, one of the lowest in the world.

Since then, solar and lithium batteries have become a viable alternative for many families and organizations. Nigeria recorded a 38 percent growth in the sale of off-grid products to 628,000 in 2021, according to REN21, a renewable energy think tank report.

The report noted that the off-grid market is growing through the Nigerian Electrification Project, which aims to electrify 300,000 homes and 30,000 local businesses through private sector-driven hybrid solar mini-grids by 2023.

The cost of the products in the market should be reduced so that many more Nigerians adopt solar or inverter batteries. The volume-weighted average price of lithium-ion battery packs across all industries increased to $151 per kilowatt-hour in 2022, an increase of 7 percent from last year. BloombergNEF forecasts that prices could continue to rise in 2023.

Adewale Adetugbo, a fintech expert, said 24/7 electricity will be the biggest achievement for many companies. Sorting out alternative power generation could help many companies recoup some of the losses they suffered in 2022 and position themselves for a comeback in 2023.

A regulated crypto market

Thanks to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) led by Godwin Emefiele, the crypto industry operated as an underground market in 2022.

While financial institutions were barred from doing business with cryptocurrency exchanges and cryptocurrency-related businesses, traders found a way to survive.

A major lifeline for the market has been the Nigerian government’s inability to pick a side and stick with it. While CBN is rigidly opposed to cryptocurrencies, the government is very reluctant to support banning the market. Many senior government officials, including the vice president, support a regulated market.

In December 2022, Babangida Ibrahim, Chairman of the House Capital Markets and Institutions Committee, said that the house would soon pass a law that would allow digital currencies in Nigeria.

The Securities and Investments (Amendment) Bill, 2007, when passed and enacted, will allow the Securities and Exchange Commission to recognize cryptocurrencies and other digital funds as capital for investment. If achieved before his term expires in May 2023, it could be the perfect parting gift from lawmakers to the struggling cryptocurrency market and to millions of Nigerians whose cryptocurrency investments have been hit due to uncertainty.

Collaboration and fintech mergers

For many years, the fintech segment of the emerging tech ecosystem in Nigeria has set the pace in funding activities, accounting for a significant portion of all funds raised. A Nigerian fintech company, Flutterwave, emerged as the most valuable tech startup in Africa with a valuation of $3 billion after raising $250 million in 2022.

However, some experts still argue that the size of fintech companies must grow to cope with the evolving competitive landscape.

Tayo Oviosu, founder and CEO of Paga Communications, a payment provider, said that by 2023 this would be achieved through collaboration between fintech and fintech companies.

“Startups will focus on smaller, niche opportunities that build on the infrastructure already built,” he told The Economist. “For example, a company like Doroki or Yoco to emulate Square, a small business payment platform, doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel of the core payments infrastructure, but can use the digital pipelines established by other companies. In this way, resources can be focused on the needs of the SMEs that are served”.

Eliot Pence, co-founder of Tofino Capital, a venture capital fund that launched its $10 million fund in 2022 to back startups in Africa and other regions, predicts mergers and acquisitions. He sees Branch International, a global payment company, acquiring Nigeria-based digital bank Carbon. Carbon acquired Amplify Pay in 2019, which also required its rebranding from a lending platform to a digital bank, offering more payment services. On its 10th anniversary in 2022, the company announced that it achieved N3.9 billion in revenue and N1.3 billion in operating income in the first half of the year.

More AI in the workplace

Thousands of tech workers may have lost their jobs by 2022, but don’t expect the companies that laid them off to be back in the job market anytime soon.

A significant portion of them are turning to artificial intelligence to fill in the gaps left by humans. That is true for Nigerian tech companies as well.

Ngozi Dozie, the co-founder of Carbon, published on Tuesday an experiment with an artificial intelligence graphic designer named Dalle. According to him, Dalle can produce three original graphic designs in three minutes, many times faster than the human graphic artist could.

“In the extreme, we may no longer need graphic designers; this is more likely to help graphic designers to be more efficient at this time and help generate ideas. But it’s a game changer and allows startups with nothing to get started quickly, and for now it’s free,” he said in a post.

Increasingly, founders are turning to AI like ChatGPT to gain insight into how consumers perceive their brands. ChatGPT is a chatbot released by OpenAI in November 2022. It is based on OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 family of large language models and is tuned with reinforcement and supervised learning techniques.