How we are positioning Lagos as leading Africa’s tech hub, by Sanwo-Olu
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, spoke with Adeyemi Adepetun and other journalists on the sideline of the just-concluded maiden edition of GITEX Africa, in Marrakesh, Morocco, on why the state, Africa’s number one tech hub, hopes to host the technology event soon.
Could we look at how far the Lagos digitisation agenda has gone?
Lagos, Nigeria’s bustling mega-city is emerging as a thriving epicenter of tech entrepreneurship and innovation. Lagos is home to some of the most innovative and successful startups in Africa, including Andela, Paystack, Flutterwave, Kobo360, Kuda Bank and many others.
These companies have not only transformed industries like fintech and e-commerce but have also inspired a new generation of entrepreneurs and investors across the continent.
Lagos has committed funds, policies and willpower to advance the tech sector and plans to speed up actions on infrastructure deployment, IT skill development and digital ID among others in the next four years to attract more investors.
In deepening Internet penetration, a key ingredient for start-ups, we have deployed over 2,900km of fibre optic infrastructure that aims to connect public schools, government buildings, hospitals, and other points of interest.
Along the same channels, we have deployed, in partnership with the private sector 3,000km of optical duct infrastructure. This will serve to de-risk infrastructure development in Lagos which will in turn increase connectivity.
In the past year, Lagos has attracted over $1 billion in Data Center investment. This will enable the local domicile of digital platforms as well as facilitate the proliferation of digital technology opportunities. The proliferation of these investments also presents 10 opportunities for talent development within this ecosystem.
Our Smart City implementation has seen us deploy over 600 Smart Intelligent Video Surveillance Cameras as well as Intelligent Transportation Cameras for Traffic monitoring and management. Over the past year, through our initial ITS pilot deployment leveraging our Automatic number plate recognition cameras, monitoring of violation infractions has reduced traffic warden in-person enforcement by 30 per cent.
We have also begun a significant identity management programme through our Lagos State Residents Registration Agency that will seek to identify all our inhabitants. Current projections state that Lagos will have 30 million inhabitants by 2035. It is imperative to drive the identity management ecosystem for a smarter city. This will lend to more efficient resource allocation and planning for the state.
The Lagos Digital Identity Project has undergone a fundamental restructuring of its operational model. With a new digital identity card that is capable of enabling access to benefits, electronic ticketing and so on, it further drives the digital inclusion benchmark for Lagos. Currently, about five million residents have been captured. We are targeting another 10 million within the next year.
Through our Lagos State Employment Trust fund, we have funded digital skills training interventions for more than 4,000 beneficiaries. Courses include digital marketing, coding, and other innovation courses. These digital skills training are needed capacity interventions that lend positively to the development of the ecosystem.
You mentioned that digital identification scheme would require face capturing. How do you intend to guarantee that this is secure?
These are some of the responsibilities that we will handover to our developers. These are some of the assurances that we need to be sure that we’ll have, especially at the back end, before we go live on some of these things. We are working with some of the well-known players in this space that have proven to have the capability to be able to do it.
And we’re convinced that once all of the T’s are crossed, and I’s are dotted, right, not only will they be functional, they will be well protected. Data protection and cybersecurity are some of the things that I’ve seen up here. And as government, both national and sub-national levels, we need to take this very, very seriously and investment needs to go to those areas to be sure that we are protecting both the national security level and also citizens’ data protection level.
These are some things that I believe we need to take very seriously. I’ve seen the benefit of it also here at this conference. And so these are some of the things that will also need to go back and ensure on the show. That was positive very well.
How do you intend to domesticate the Startup Act in Lagos?
No, no, no, we’ve domesticated it. It’s clear we’re part of the conversation, we are part of people at the various stages of the conversation. So, we know what it is. So the domestication is really to be able to take it to our own House of Assembly again, and have it you know, a Lagos State law.
So, pretty much, almost everything that is for the sub-national at our level, are the things that we’re going to be doing there, you know, how we handle them, to ensure we create an enabling environment for them. We shall be looking are the things from the government side to be done to improve the startup ecosystem in the state. We are willing to comply fully. We have started the process already, and even as it is now, we are complying with some of the things that are there. We need to have a local law to back it up so that we don’t get it reversed even when we are no more there.
From the GITEX Africa conference, what is the take-home for Lagos State?
Well, I mean, there’s a lot to take home. One of the major take-home is our plan that we also want to host this size of events in the next year or two. And I’ve spoken to the organizer at the highest level.
I’m very impressed with what Morocco has done, you know, they got a national commitment before it even got to the city of Marrakesh. So, as I’m going back home as I’m speaking with some of the federal agencies, NCC, NITDA, all of us should be able to come together, right and speak even at the national level, because it’s not an easy feat to pull through, especially when you have a national conference like that in the range of 20,000 to 30,000 participants.
But I’m looking forward to Lagos being a host may be the next 12 to 24 months because it takes a while for them to agree to that. Moreover, huge logistics are involved, including coming up with a space or location, traffic management, security, funding and the rest.
It is something Lagos should do because we are home to the biggest and largest tech startups in Africa. So, the least we can do is to ensure that we bring the funders, industry players, and governments, among others to meet with our tech startups, unicorns, among others. It can even be spread to other parts of West Africa, including Ghana, andTogo and bring everybody together and create a platform for them. So, my take home is to find all means to replicate GITEX Africa in Lagos, better than what we have seen in Marrakesh, Morocco in a year or two.