Meet the Techies Who Are Turning Yaba Into Nigeria’s Silicon Valley

Image result for CCHUB

On the 6th Floor of a discreet building on 294 Herbert Macaulay Rd, Lagos, Nigeria, lies Co-Creation Hub, CcHUB. It was Mark Zuckerberg’s first port of call during his visit to Nigeria in August 2016. The Facebook founder paid a visit to CcHUB to see for himself where the high-tech boom in Lagos has taken off. In years to come 294 Herbert Macaulay Rd will be to technology sector what 51 Iweka Road, Onitsha, is to Nollywood.

I paid a visit to the building a week after Zuckerberg’s stopover. But first, I started with a visit to GRA Ikeja where I met with Francis Ezengige, another high-tech engineer at the heart of hi-tech revolution sweeping across Lagos.

Below are the stories of techies turning Lagos, especially Yaba, into Nigeria’s Silicon Valley.

It was 8.30 pm in Lagos. While most workers were on the last lap of their journey home through the notorious Lagos traffic, the Chief Technology Officer (C.T.O.) and co-founder of Netop Business Systems (Nigeria) Ltd, Mr. Francis Ezengige, was still busy at his office in GRA, Ikeja, Lagos. It was another of those days that he works all through into the midnight. The project at hand was the design and development of a critical solution for MDS Logistics PLC – a division of UAC (United Africa Company).

MDS Logistics is the biggest third party logistic company in West Africa and handles the outbound logistics of several multinationals including Guinness, Glaxo, Promasidor, Michelin, International Distilleries and many others. MDS, which stands for Manufacturers’ Delivery System, is a distribution company with over 60 depots housing multiple warehouses spread across Nigeria. To deliver its function effectively, the company requires Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and that was the task that kept Ezengige awake the night I interviewed him.

Ezeginge.jpg

Ezengige

When completed, the critical solution would enable MDS handle inventory management, stock movement, sales order processing and storage management. The solution would also assist the company to efficiently deliver goods and services for several local and multinational corporations. Tough task, that is. But Ezengige is thoroughbred professional.

At  49,  he has been at the cutting edge of Information Technology (IT) development in Lagos. Since he graduated in 1990 from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he obtained a bachelors degree in electronic engineering, he has worked as software developer and system analyst at different companies.

He later formed Netop Business Systems with his business partner and CEO of the company, Cyril Asuku, and discovered that the journey to nurture a technology startup in Nigeria is a tortuous one.  Their attempt to design an identity management solution called Digital Evidence for banks in 2005 and the struggle to sell a software designed to mitigate fraud in the banking sector in Nigeria were their first litmus test.

“All the big banks turned us down until STB now UBA gave us a chance,” he says. And it took another three years before other banks started patronizing them.  The software used miniature camera on the bank teller PC to capture customers’ images, the fingerprints and the transactions, merging the images with other data in one document and save it. Nestop was the first company to deliver such solution 10years ago. Later the government got interested and formed the National Identity Management Commission, which led to Bank Verification Number (BVN). In fact, capturing the biometrics of bank customers was a later exercise, which was supposed to be an extension of digital evidence. But the idea was later hijacked by other interests and was given to a foreign firm.

While Ezengige and his company have taken Ikeja, the capital of Lagos as their domain, a younger generation of technology buffs is redefining Yaba as the technological hub of Lagos. Tunji Eleso is one of those prime movers. As the former director of Incubation at Co-Creation Hub (CcHUB) and now a managing partner at CcHUB subsidiary, Growth Capital, Mr. Eleso was among those who came to Yaba in 2011 and helped to galvanize like-minded people to relocate to the area. According to him there were about four tech companies in the area when CcHUB arrived. They noticed that Yaba had all the elements of the ecosystem needed for technology to grow.

First, it is at the center of the city, located between Lagos Island and the mainland; two, it is in closer to talents pool such as University of Lagos, Yaba Institute of Technology and Federal College of Science and Technology; and finally there is fair presence of reliable broadband needed for internet connection.

The pioneers took up former Governor Fashola of Lagos State on his bold statement that he wanted to make Lagos the center of innovation in Africa. Working with Lagos State Innovation Advisory Council, Eleso’s team was able to turn the one and half mile radius of Herbert Macaulay Way into a technology hub that it is today.

“Now there are over 60 technological companies in the Yaba area because all major ingredients that are key to the development of the technological sector are there,” Mr. Eleso says.

As part of CcHUB’s goal of facilitating the partnership between citizens, social entrepreneurs and experts, in March of 2011, they threw a challenge to Nigerians asking anyone with exciting idea that would bridge the gap between government and citizens to submit ideas. And they received 45 ideas and which was pruned down to six.  CcHUB took the six ideas into a hackathons where they brought experts, developers, artists and software engineers who were given 48 hours to build a prototype of the idea. At the end of the 48 hours, a panel of experts judged the various pitches. According to Eleso, BudgIT, which now monitors capital projects across Nigeria states, came second.

Image result for CCHUB

Mark Zuckerberg, Tunji Eleso and others at the CcHub in Yaba.

“So, in many ways, BudgIT and its development was as a result of the collaboratory effort around seeking a problem area and bringing all those that are critical to that problem area together to start the process of solving the problem,” says Eleso.

Using a similar process, Eleso said that in 2012, Efiko, a mobile testing platform for students that supplements learning, was developed. While Efiko came first, ASA, a platform that helps young children connect to their culture, came third. ASA uses games and animations to reinforce the learning of language, folklores and other cultural ethos.

In March 14 of this year, Growth Academy with Intel Africa had a 3-month accelerator course hosted by CcHUB. It selected 10 out of over 102 startups that applied. The 10 startups are EdvesSuite, VergeNG, Mamalette, Tuteria, GoMyWay, DropBuddies, Eazyhire, VacantBoards, GeniiGames and Wesabi. In April 12, Facebook in conjunction with CcHUB hosted a meeting for developers in Lagos at the Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba, Lagos, office of CcHUB. Six startups were chosen for the meeting. They were Truppr, Lifebank, Genii Games, BudgIT, Mamalette and Grit Systems.

Eleso said that international high tech companies like Google, Facebook, Intel, Oracle, and Microsoft work with them to develop indigenous tech companies because Nigeria’s tech ecosystem helps them to extend their own services. “They come and do a lot of trainings to make sure that software developers are better skilled,” Eleso says. “But more importantly, they are better able to support the development of these applications either by preloading them or featuring them at conferences.”

At this year’s F8 Facebook Conference in San Francisco, four Nigerian apps were featured. Zikko, Afrinolly, Jobberman and My Music. Nigerian techies joined others across the world to watch at F8 Meetups in Lagos.

Abiodun Thorpe, a technology enthusiast, has an office at the CcHUB in Yaba, Lagos, where he creates phone and web apps. He said that having an office at CcHUB enhanced the work he does. “My relationship with CcHUB has been incredible knowing the space from idea stage to what it is today. Some startups like BudgIT, Wecyclers, Asa, Efiko and others have made the space attractive to social entrepreneurs,” he says. “The community space is great for collaboration, quick feedback on projects, amongst other things. “

Thorpe is currently working on a simple platform called KiniScore (www.KiniScore.com). It aims to give real-time, on demand, live scores updates on African Leagues games. He said that the government needed to do more to enhance the work they are doing. “Stable power, reliable connectivity, market research data and sometimes the huge disconnect between products and its target users,” he says are some of the obstacle they still face. “The government needs to do more than just throwing money at some elephant projects, because prosperity of a nation is a function of prosperity of the businesses in there.”

There is no shortage of ideas from Nigerian youths. Nigeria, with a population of 188 million out of which 70% are under 30, the human resources are enormous. Lagos state alone is home to 23 million people. The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics stated that unemployment rate in Nigeria is at 10.4% for the last quarter of last year. It is estimated that 22.45 million Nigerians are either unemployed or underemployed.

Last month, the Nigerian police opened a recruitment exercise for 10,000 positions. In less than a month they received over 800,000 applications. When Francis Ezengige advertised for opening for programmers at his company, over 200 people applied from different fields of study. He said that out of the number he was able to get ten good candidates who became great programmers even though most of them did not study programming at the university. “The rate of conversion from different fields of study to IT is very high,” he says. “Nigerian youths are great programmers and they can match programmers anywhere in the world.”

Ezengige pointed out that before MDX contacted his Netop, they tried to use solutions from foreign programmers and failed because those foreign solutions couldn’t provide solutions to peculiarities in Nigerian businesses. “The problem is Nigerians accepting that we are capable of producing software that is not just as good as what is out there but that could possibly out class what is out there,” Ezengige says.

CREDITS: This article is written by by Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo,and was first published on http://saharareporters.com/2017/04/07/people-turning-yaba-nigeria%E2%80%99s-silicon-valley-0

 

How Technology is Improving Education |By Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata

CFA
Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata, presenter of Tech Trends on Channels Television

 

The importance of Education Technology, Edu-Tech for short, in modern day teaching and learning cannot be over-emphasized, especially now that ICT has taken a pivotal role in our everyday life.

Today, there are many applications available for distant learning through online means, etc. I recently interviewed Wale Ogunjobi, Founder of Primaltutor.com.ng on the input of technology on education.

Wale Ogunjobi is a digital trainer, digital consultant and motivational speaker.

On ways that technology is assisting in solving some of the problems in our education sector, Wale is of the view that one of the ways is the reach which technology enables more people to have access to education and also allows some that are unable to afford to attend an institution or learning centre, can easily have access to an e-learning platform and learn from there.

Another area that technology is assisting in solving the problems in the education sector, he said is in the affordability as most of the online courses are cheaper and affordable. A third point Wale raised is that, with technology, the barrier of distance has been broken as you can even learn without leaving the confines of your bedroom.

Wale concurred that the rate of adoption of learning platforms by the public is low and the reason for this may be because of inadequate policies.

He is of the view that, if there are policies on ground to support Edu-Tech, this might be a plus for the sector in terms of patronage. He, however, stated that there has been some improvement in patronage in recent times.

Stating some of the problems his startup, Primaltutor.com.ng is solving, Wale stated that, apart from educating people, his platform is trying to solve the platform of unemployment as the platform has so far absorbed over 300 tutors that train on the platform. He stated that the process of certifying these trainers involves going through series of tests, interviews, etc., as the platform only seeks to ensure that the trainers on the platform train only in their areas of strength and competence.

As a Startup, Wale stated that some of the problems he faced when he started and which he is still facing include the issue of penetrating the market because of lack of trust as well as inadequate infrastructure.

Reacting to a question as to mentors working with him on his startup, Wale responded that he has been working with some mentors.

He stressed that, for a startup to be successful, he needs to have a mentor to put him through on how to run the business successfully in the areas of marketing strategy, financials, etc. In his own case, Wale said he has mentors for different aspects of his startup.

Stressing on some opportunities he sees in the Edu-Tech sector that Nigeria is not yet seeing as a country. Wale pointed out the huge opportunities in terms of knowledge-based economy such as it is helping advanced countries like the UK and the USA. In those climes, he said, they leverage on Edu-Tech to platforms where citizens can study up to the PhD level without even stepping into the four walls of a university. Wale believes that government policies can really help to deepen and fast-track the Edu-Tech sector.

Wale is of the view that more startups should be encountered to invest in the Edu-Tech sector if we really want to solve the problems we have in our education sector and the startups should focus on taking on the Nursery.

Primary and Secondary school levels while the tertiary level, which is a more advanced one, could be addressed as time goes on. He sees a bright future for the Edu-Tech sector as long as the right government policies to make it thrive are put in place as it is the next phase of education in Nigeria.

CFA is the Founder, www.CFAtech.ng & Co-producer/Presenter, Tech Trends on Channels Television

INFOGRAPHIC: The story of Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man

Dangote

“There are nearly 7.4 billion people on planet earth, but Aliko Dangote is one of the 74 men and women who make the world turn,” said Forbes in their World’s Most Powerful People list released last year.

Dangote is Africa’s wealthiest man with a current net worth of $12.2 billion. Forbes ranked him as the second most powerful black person in the world after Barack Obama (#48). He is Africa’s second most powerful person and the 68th most powerful person in the world. The business tycoon’s accolades are unending as his swaying influence in Africa is unmatched.

One of the evidences of how powerful he is was felt in Tanzania in November last year as one of his factories, Dangote Cement in Mtwara temporarily shut down as a result of high operational costs and non-fulfillment of obligations by the Tanzanian Government. It took President John Magufuli himself to instigate a timely intervention, which if delayed, could have led to a loss of many jobs and shattered investors’ confidence in Tanzania.

Surprisingly, Dangote is also interested in football. In 2016 it was reported that Africa’s richest man plans to buy Arsenal Football Club in the next 4 years.

According to Jiji.ng, Dangote owns the largest industrial business in Nigeria and throughout West Africa. He provides thousands of African families with bread and butter. He is also a source of inspiration for young entrepreneurs who strive for success.

Below is an infographic that tells you the story of Africa’s richest man

Aliko.jpg

Six Things Nigerian Startups Are Worried About

Startup.jpg

Startups are the backbone of any economy. They are established by young Nigerians who make efforts to secure capital and start something on their own. This is not a simple task. Ask any young person who owns a business, you will be taken aback by their experiences and tales of running one in Nigeria. These startups which can be likened to small scale businesses have provided employment and contributed their own quota via creative ideas, to either offer solutions to societal problems or a service.

Despite this, there are quite a number of challenges they are encountering and are quite worried about. We discuss some of these worries.

1. Power

Image result for lack of electricity for nigerian business

The issue of electricity can’t be over flogged. If power can be stroked off the list of things startups are worried about, it will have an overall impact on the startup. First of all, you will not factor in money for buying a generator or fuel into your budget. Such a money will be invested in the business or employ more hands. But power is epileptic. You will be gobsmacked if you see the amount even big organizations budget for huge generators and diesel let alone startups.

Related image

2. Business registration

Kudos to the Nigerian government for launching the 60-day national plan for ease of doing business in the country. It is good but it is more than just launching a plan. The time, money and stress of registering just a startup are discouraging. This is why many startups just register their business name while they leave the other paperwork for later. Business registration should be automated so that it won’t take more than a week to register a startup. In fact, priority should be given to startups.

3. Capital

Thanks to venture capitalists and seed investors who are supporting these startups to keep them afloat. Obviously, this is usually after you have invested a certain amount of your capital in the business. Where do you get the capital from? It is usually from friends and family. Banks are likely to deny you loans. And of course, the Naira to dollar fluctuations is also an issue.

Startup 1

4. Little tangible corporate or government support

Corporate organizations rarely support startups. They prefer to sponsor or support entertainment programmes or ideas. If you pitch your idea to them and it is not entertainment related, you are probably wasting your precious time. Corporate organizations should sponsor competitions, where individuals with startups ideas can compete and get, will get financial support to implement the idea. As for the government, they are trying but there is more to be done.

5. Taxation

There are different bodies that collect taxes in Nigeria. And they charge to pay all sorts of rates. Although some organisations fail to pay tax, it’s not their fault sometimes. The government needs to block these loopholes and harmonize the taxation process. Hence, startups will know that they are not double taxed.

ec0c7-michelle2bekure

6. Lack of patronage from Nigerians

It is worrying that Nigerians don’t buy made in Nigeria goods. They prefer foreign to Nigeria made. Patronizing Nigerian startups doesn’t only means you are supporting them, it shows you recognize their efforts.

Six Things Successful Entrepreneurs Have In Common

67698.jpg

Being an entrepreneur is not a child’s play. It takes a lot of guts and conviction for you to take the bold step to become an entrepreneur. More so if you are a Nigerian. When these entrepreneurs are eventually successful, there are certain things that they do or have in common that result in these achievements. So what are these things?

We have identified six traits that will help budding and young entrepreneurs to take similar actions or steps.

Image result for entrepreneurial ideas

1.They believe in their ideas

Successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for anyone to validate their ideas. This is because they have invested a reasonable time in researching the workability and practicability of the ideas before sharing it with potential investors and friends. So, whether your friend or investor believes in your idea, they are not worried, they pursue it to a viable conclusion. Their positivity will always rub off on those around them.

Image result for solutions to problems

2.They find solutions to problems

Entrepreneurs easily find solutions to problems and provide answers via a product or service. This is why it is essential to conduct market research to test your solutions. When you have a market, be sure that your solution will solve the problem your target market has.

Image result for entrepreneurs delegate

3.They delegate

Successful entrepreneurs don’t do everything on their own. Except you want to experience entrepreneurial burnout, you will always delegate. What you should delegate are the things you have little or no knowledge about.

Image result for entrepreneurs go the extra mile

4.They go the extra mile

Entrepreneurs are never satisfied with doing things haphazardly. They are exhaustive and if they need to go the extra mile, they will. In going the extra mile, they sacrifice a quite a number of things.

5.They schedule everything

As a business man, your schedule is always tight. You are always in one meeting or another. The only way you can manage yourself and time is by scheduling everything. Don’t postpone anything. Be at home when you are supposed to and go on vacation to Obudu Resort when you are meant to.

6.They invest in their own skills

Whether you are an entrepreneur or not you should always hone your skills. Successful entrepreneurs never hesitate to educate themselves.

Made In Aba Fair: 4th Edition Kicks off in Abuja

Image result for made in aba trade fair abuja

The fourth edition of Made-in-Aba trade fair in Abuja kicked off on Monday 6th of March 2017 at the  Art & Craft village opposite Sheraton Hotel, Abuja. The fair will hold from 6th-10th of March 2017. The fair which is organized to showcase locally manufactured goods in the country is an annual event put together by the made in Aba group and the small and medium enterprises development agency.

Related image

The senate president, Bukola Saraki in his remark during the opening event, commended the effort of Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe for his commitment in hosting the trade fair.
Saraki assured that the National Assembly will continue to do everything within its powers to provide enabling environments for domestic  manufacturers and service providers to thrive
Here is his full remark;
It gives me great pleasure to be here today to declare open this session of the Made in Aba Trade Fair.

 “I would like to congratulate, my friend, and colleague, Distinguished Senator Abaribe, for his foresight and devotion for continuing this renowned event. The dedication to continue this initiative, has taken the Made in Aba Fair from being a local event, to being a National event of worthy recognition. It is my hope that soon, Made in Nigeria, and Made in Aba, will become internationally recognized and respected.

“Many of you will recall, that last year, when I visited this same Trade Fair with my Distinguished Colleagues from the 8th Senate, we promised that the Senate would continue to do everything in our power to ensure that Nigerian businesses and manufacturers begin to enjoy more patronage from the Federal Government.

“This is precisely what we have done. With the amendment of the Public Procurement Act, which has passed final reading in the Senate, and is making its way through the House of Representatives. We are in the process of making it easier for manufacturers and entrepreneurs around the country to benefit from the over N2 trillion in government procurement contracts.

“Additionally, my Office, has launched the Made in Nigeria Challenge, which is aimed at showcasing the innovative ideas of Nigerian businesses. Through this challenge, which is still ongoing, we hope to identify goods, services and other products that can be matched with investors and government agencies, to further the plight of our homegrown businessmen and women.

Today, as I see the various goods on display, I stand here reassured that ‘Made in Nigeria’ can truly and fully drive us towards the path of economic sustainability and prosperity. 

On our part, we in the Nigerian Senate, and the National Assembly as a whole, will continue to do everything within our mandate and powers to ensure that our domestic manufacturers and service providers have the enabling environment that they need to thrive. Working with the Federal Government, we will push for improved infrastructure, financial investment and technology to boost our domestic manufacturing value chain.

 “We are partners in this process; we will continue to be partnersI believe in Made in Nigeria, I believe in Made in Aba. The possibilities ahead of us are endless.

God bless you all. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Image result for made in aba trade fair abuja

He says the goods produced in Aba and by extension Nigeria are capable of competing with those produced anywhere in the world. Goods of various kinds including clothes, shoes, beads and other domestic product are in display.

Image result for made in aba trade fair abuja

Dignitaries including Service Chiefs, members of the National Assembly and members of the diplomatic corps are all on hand to grace the event.