Hundreds of jobs created as technology hubs hit 77
• Lagos has 35 innovation centres, Abuja 13, Rivers 5
•Experts task Buhari on tech-focused economy, improved infrastructure
Hundreds of jobs have been created with the spread of technology hubs across the country, as each employ between five and 10 workers engaged in developing various apps.
A ‘tech hub’ is a physical space – a city, a suburb or just a suite of offices – which has developed to help technology startup companies succeed and, they hope, become the next tech titan like Facebook or Microsoft.
The Guardian investigation showed that there are now over 77 technology hubs in Nigeria with about 12 new ones scheduled for launch before year end. As expected, Lagos has the largest number; 36 in all. Abuja currently has 13, while Rivers is home to five hubs.
Lagos also has the largest technology hub ecosystem in Africa, ahead of Cape Town, and Nairobi, a 2018 GSMA report confirmed.
With over 440 active tech hubs in Africa, the report found that five countries, namely, South Africa (59), Nigeria (55), Egypt (34), Kenya (30) and Morocco (25) make up 45 per cent of the total hubs in the region.
The report noted that although South Africa has the most tech hubs in the region, Lagos alone, with 31 tech hubs, leads Cape Town (26 tech hubs), and Nairobi (25 tech hubs), making it the African city with the largest cluster of technology hubs.
The GSMA report was released in March 2018, but between April 2018 and May 2019, Lagos added new hubs including Facebook NG_Hub; The Nest, Eko Innovation hub, among others.
According to Nigerian Startup Funding Report, the country’s startups raised $17.6 million in first quarter (Q1) 2019, 8.5 per cent above Q1 2018 level. The report noted that over 80 per cent of the total funding was raised by Fintechs. However, almost 70 per cent of the total funding for the quarter was contributed by foreign fund providers.
It must, however, be noted that 80 per cent of the hubs are majorly private sector driven, as the government, though promised to encourage spread of hubs across the country, is still working on its plans as there are very few government-owned hubs.
Recall that at the unveiling of Vibranium Valley in Lagos, mid-2018, Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo said government in its capacity would do everything possible to ensure technology is developed and adequately harnessed.
Osinbajo assured investors, stressing that the business of government was to provide an environment, where businesses could flourish and investments grow, “which have been the targets of this government.”
According to him, the future of Nigeria is not oil or solid minerals, but about technology, innovation.
“And tech innovation is all about highly-skilled people, entrepreneurship spirit and a supporting ecosystem of government, investors, mentors and global collaboration,” he said.
On how jobs are created through technology hubs, the Director-General, Delta State Innovation Hub (DSHUB), Chris Uwaje, said the establishment of innovation hubs was a prerequisite for current and future competitiveness and survivability.
He stressed that nations must be re-tooled to meet the challenges of emerging, high-skilled and ICT-driven societies; they must establish new development strategies and responsive institutional frameworks and sustainable models.
He explained: “From the 100 startups that would emerge, not all would make it. It might just be 50 per cent, which is half of the 100.
“And if their solutions are very good and meet market requirements and need, that might lead to the employment of about 500 people in the minimum.
“At that stage, they are still small-scale enterprises, which mean that if they weather the storm and become marketable, the employment generation could run into thousands.”
He revealed that in India, a minimum of 1,000 people work in an ICT environment, compared to Nigeria’s 155. This, he noted, proved Nigeria is lagging behind.
Further findings by The Guardian showed that Enugu has about five tech hubs including just launched TechX. Kwara has two; Delta three; Abia two; Cross River two; Ondo three; Kano two; Oyo two; Ogun three, among others.
Some of the technology hubs include: Co-Creation Hub (CcHub); NG_HUB; The Nest; Impact Hub Lagos; VerveTree; DevsDistrict Hub; DSHub; AkureTechUp; Wennovation Hub; Innovation Growth Hub (IGHub); ROAR Nigeria Hub; Focus Hub; GIG Innovation Hub; Start Innovation Hub; Civic Innovation Lab; nHub; Enspire Hub; Eko Innovation Hub and Vibranium Valley.
Speaking with The Guardian, co-founder, The Nest, Peter Ogedengbe, said from the background, some of the hubs have different focuses.
Some of them are a combination of different things, which include co-work spaces; acceleration and funding model, Ogedengbe said.
Because of the co-work spacing, the impact on the startups is that the startups don’t have to have a lot of capital to start their businesses, “they can pay monthly or quarterly and this allowed them to be able to do their businesses efficiently and through the process grow their capital and allow them to employ more people.”
“So, it allows them to scale faster, manage their expenses, which in turns means that they will be able to do more with little, especially job creation. The Hub and the acceleration centres are helping them to employ more people, which rub-off well on the economy.”
According to him, capacity and job creation still boil down to the fact that if they have space to work with, which the hubs have created, “they would be able to create jobs.”
“Indeed, the hubs across the country have created jobs in their thousands because if you go by one tech startup having seven to 10 people working together and you fact-check the number of hubs across the country, you can imagine the numbers of jobs that have been created. We are making progress.
“Though, we might not have attained a company employing about 500,000 people, but I can say that for now the ones we have employ five to 10 people, and this is happening across the country where there are hubs. In the end, this triggers some form of employment, which rubs off well on the economy,” Ogedengbe said.
The Nest co-founder noted that two things are critical from government in terms of support. These, according to him, include having constant power supply and internet accessibility.
He said the power problem in Nigeria is giving owners of technology hubs headache.
According to him, Internet access has been fair, especially in Lagos, though somehow still epileptic, then you can imagine how the service will be in other cities, especially in the north.
Ogendengbe also stressed the need for major funding from government. According to him, it may not even be direct money, “but that government been aware of what is going on within the tech space, giving opportunities to these people for them to be able to do more.
“Government should use some of these things that are produced. Today, we have people that have produced good accounting packages; IoT technological products, among others. Patronage by government will go a very long way, even if they are not giving money, but ensuring that the environment is conducive and encouraging business development for fund generation,” Ogedengbe said.
Also commenting, a telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, noted that start-ups have always been essential to the digital world. He explained that start-up ecosystems, or networks of start-ups and their support structures, interact with each other to develop the existing companies and create new ones.
“Tech hubs, the incubators, accelerators and collaborative spaces that foster the startups, are thus quite obviously intrinsic to these ecosystems,” he said.
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