The world is innovating so fast, impacting the way we live, work or play. The gap between the developed countries and developing countries have increased in no small measure. For countries around the world that have embraced innovation, great opportunities and wealth are created through open innovation as government, the industry, the academics and the community are playing key roles to make innovation possible through a vibrate ecosystem which is key in achieving the global goal of sustainable development.
Nigeria is one of the biggest economies in Africa and an emerging one around the world with great human and material resources and a great population of young people who are passionate to drive changes. At the moment the country is facing an economic recession that has kept its citizens in great hardship and very bleak future. Often times one wonders how a country richly endowed with enormous potentials and before now, great economic outlook as a top oil producing country, finds itself in under-development and economic mess. The answer is simple, over the years the leaders of the country never invested in the development of any sector of Nigeria’s economy, all they have been doing is looting public treasuries and enriching themselves ,their friends and families from the oil proceeds. And the most unfortunate part is there is no system in place that holds any corrupt public office holder in Nigeria accountable. This is the biggest challenge to nation building, development. This is why driving technology and innovation has been a herculean task and the academics are also handicapped.
Despite these challenges coupled with an environment that does not encourage innovation, the future of Nigeria is gradually being shaped by the tenacity of young people who have embraced technology, innovation and entrepreneurship and have decided against all odds to make impact. They are building innovative startups and businesses.
Key Drivers of Startup Ecosystem in Nigeria
Coming into Nigeria for the first time and landing in Lagos-the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, you will be welcomed by this vibrate city with over 20 million people, a city that has often being likened to New York City, Cairo and New Delhi because of how busy it is. You have the Lagos Island and the Lagos Mainland separated by one of the longest bridges-the 3rd mainland bridge. The city is also dotted with clusters of suburbs. A major area that is consciously becoming an innovation cluster is the Yaba area of Lagos.
This is where you will find most start-ups in Nigeria and a growing Startup Ecosystem is emerging with the support of indigenous companies like MainOne, International organizations and good spirited individuals like Tomi Davies, Tony Elumelu of Tony Elumelu Foundation, Chika Nwobi and many others who are driving these changes to grow a structured startup ecosystem in Nigeria. Yaba has gradually attracted an increased broadband and internet infrastructure, co- location of tech hubs, the presence of two institutions-the University of Lagos and the Yaba College of Technology, with many startup companies springing up daily.
The recent visit of Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and Co-Founder of Facebook, to Yaba shows that the world is taking notice of what is happening in Nigeria and a CNN report says that visit was a great boost. Thanks to Bosun Tijani and Femi Longe, two young Nigerians that started the first Technology Hub in Nigeria-the Co-Creation Hub (CcHub).The CCHub is at the centre of tech innovation amongst young people in Nigeria. It is Nigeria’s first open living lab and pre-incubation space designed to be a multi-functional, multi-purpose space where work to catalyze creative social tech ventures take place. We have witnessed several businesses co locating in the same area with the hub and many other technology hubs are also springing up in other cities like Abuja where more young people are building great stuffs.
Startups like Iroko, Jobberman, Hotels.ng, Andela, Paga, Nairabet, BAU, Wakanow, Afrinolly, Konga, Yudala and many others are setting the pace ,making impact, expanding their operations while providing employment for Nigerians.
There has been an increased awareness in social entrepreneurship where technology is used as a tool to drive social causes. This area have created interesting startups like BudgIT, Wecyclers, LifeBank and I admire the effort of organizations like the Paradigm Initiative of Nigeria and many others in driving social entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
The Need to Grow the Ecosystem
Yes, there is great desire and passion for innovation in Nigeria, there also exist great opportunities in driving FinTech, EdTech, HealthTech, AgroTech, Ecommerce. The opportunity that is created with increased use of mobile phones is enormous and largely untapped. There is a greater need to create more awareness on open innovation and foster both corporate, small business and startup innovation in Nigeria as to grow a matured ecosystem where successes become more predictable and replicable. And because collaboration between Government, the industry and the academics is non-existent that hinders real ecosystem development. This is why we are hosting the Nigeria Innovation Summit to create more awareness on the need to collaborate. It is a platform that will help deepen the drive for innovation in Nigeria through local and international partnerships. Therefore, we seek global support to make this a reality.