Innovation Hubs in Nigeria: Challenges and Opportunities for Growth

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Wednesday, June 05, 2019 /  03.40PM  /  Ottoabasi Abasiekong for Proshare WebTV / Header Image Credit: FCMB

 

The emergence of innovation hubs across the globe is becoming an interesting trend. 

One of the global centres of technological advancement and development, the United States of America, is reputed to be home to one of the greatest citadels of innovation and transformation “The Silicon Valley” in California. 

Brands like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Lyft, Snapchat, amongst others are massive tech firms that have contributed to the growth of the American economy and deepening of the capital market. 

Nigeria is also positioning itself as a critical player in the age of innovation and technological advancement, as young and dynamic entrepreneurs have emerged in the tech space seeking to provide solutions to the challenges in the economy. 

In Yaba, Lagos State, there has been the emergence of what has been described as “Africa’s Silicon Valley” developed by the Co-Creation Hub team. 

From the Yaba cluster and Co-Creation Hub, we have seen innovative companies emerge like BudgIT, WeCyclers, Ruby, Lifebank, amongst others. 

Apart from the Yaba cluster, young Nigerian entrepreneurs have dazzled with innovative software development companies providing solutions in the financial services and other critical sectors of the economy like Andela and Flutterwave. 

Today there are several innovation hubs in the country, from Abuja, Lagos to Port Harcourt in the South-South region in the country. 

Even the Federal and some State governments are also exploring the development of innovation hubs as incubators and catalysts of technological advancement.

From the recent survey of ‘Insight2Impact,’ Nigeria’s digital ecosystem is evolving and experiencing rapid adoption of technology and innovation, with dynamic hubs, hackathon sessions and a growing fintech ecosystem. 

 

Opportunities for Innovation Hubs and the Digital Economy

Professor Olayinka David-West the Academic Director, Lagos Business School in a recent tech forum identified the following as opportunities for innovation hubs in the country, which include;


  • Development of Platform-based enterprises
  • Catalyze market and advance economic development
  • Digital job creation relying on an extremely entrepreneurial, tech-savvy and young population
  • Digital inclusion that relies on ubiquitious mobile penetration.

 

Perspective from Stakeholders

Dr. Konstantinos Thanos the Head of the Wema Bank/Alat Innovation Centre giving his view on hubs in Nigeria, asserted that despite the increasing number of Innovation hubs across Nigeria, making it the country with the most innovation hubs in the continent, the actual work being done in these hubs needs to be further refined. 

He was of the view that the ideas and products being developed need to serve real issues and problems, to offer utility and ultimately create profits. 

This according to him can be done through stronger collaborations between the Innovation Hubs and the private and public sector. 

“Beyond that, there is need for a stronger innovation policy,  that will capture, among other, the areas of training and funding. With training we mean the actual skills transfer to be able to Innovate, while with Funding we mean the availability of funds to enable individuals and SMEs to create and ideate” Dr Thanos said . 

Also, Mr Nsikak John Head of Nigeria Stock Exchange Enterprise Innovation Hub in his analysis identified human capacity as a critical component for successful hubs, as talent was key to facilitating innovation, creativity and growth for idea owners and ventures. 

He also harped on funding which is vital for supporting ventures and ideas, which is a challenge across the country at the moment. 

Mr John noted that most idea owners and founders can’t afford to pay for their spaces at the hub, leaving the hubs to look for other means of financing. 

Some of the issues that will have to be addressed to effectively stimulate the growth and impact of innovation hubs in Nigeria, include the following;

  • Infrastructure- Power, Broadband, Good road network
  • Enabling Business Environment- Creating an atmosphere for business zones and innovation hubs with a friendly tax regime
  • Financing –The need to attract financing for innovation hubs, through a special investment fund that can be visible to venture capital and private equity firms.
  • Policy Environment- The Policy strategy of the government should be fitting to encourage the setting up of innovation hubs and even the development of already established tech clusters like Yaba, Lagos State.
  • Synergy With Universities- There will be need for more collaborations between innovation hubs and universities in Nigeria. This will encourage research and development and scale the environment for innovative ideas in the academic space.


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Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

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