As debates continue to mount on the opportunity or threat of social media to national development, Akinwunmi Adesina, president of African Development Bank, (AfDB) said social media, which is a revolution, will play a definitive role in Nigeria and other African countries transformation and economic growth.

He said for African countries, including Nigeria which banned Twitter in June this year, to reap the benefits of this revolution, they must work on the “analog complements” by strengthening regulations that ensure competition among businesses, by adapting workers’ skills to the demands of the new economy, and by holding institutions to account.

Adesina who is described as ‘Africa’s Optimist in chief’ who led discussion at the 19 edition of Necci Pr Roundtable in Lagos Thursday on the Theme: ‘Social Media, National Security and Social Change, Bridging the gaps for Development in Africa’ said social media and development have entered an exciting phase.

“Aside from self-advocacy and the creation of platforms for people to speak for themselves, the opportunities for wealth creation in application and content development, marketing, branding, e-commerce, and Business-to-Business opportunities are mind-boggling”.

Buttressing the importance of social media for engagement, he cited the African Development Bank that has realised the value of social media. “We are active on multiple platforms, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Each has shown steady growth over the past four years, in terms of followers and engagement. Twitter has emerged as an important podium for us to disseminate information rapidly to a large global audience”

On national security, Adesina who was Nigeria Minister for Agriculture between 2011 and 2015 said the unemployed generation of young men and women is probably a nation’s greatest security risk, and not the use of social media. “The kind of social change we would like to see is only possible, if the youth have hope, jobs, and confidence in the future”. With 40 million social media users in Nigeria, Adesina said the country is catching up but it needs to close the digital divide. According to him, every Nigerian should have reliable and affordable internet access. This access will expand digital financial inclusion and wider use of social media platforms.

“Social media is here to stay. It will continue to influence politics, connect people, and shape our future. By fully leveraging the power of technology, social media and communication platforms, we will create a better, more inclusive and prosperous Nigeria”, he said. Also speaking, Femi Adesina, spokesman to Nigeria’s president, who spoke through Zoom, recalled the circumstances that led to the banning of Twitter but however gave hope on the unbanning of the social platform saying that social media can be used for effective social mobilisation.

During the panel discussion moderated by Lampe Omoyele, managing director of Nitro 121, speakers agreed that social media can be for good or bad depending on who is using it. Dike Chukwumerije, a performance poet, described social media as a platform for expression of grievances by Nigerians. He said the best security is providing infrastructure and anything short of this is propaganda.

According to him, social media can be a tool to re-orientate the citizens and direct their anger to positive activity. In his assessment, Mojeed Musikilu, COO of Premium Times said Nigeria committed blunder by banning Twitter. He said, instead, government officials should be on Twitter to engage the citizens. Obi Azika who is passionate about Nigeria’s development and other speakers agreed social media can be a tool for education of the masses.

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