Ready For The Big Scene? Unraveling The State Of Africa’s Drone Industry

Nzekwe Henry July 5

Last month, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) unveiled what it christened the UNICEF Innovation Funds for Drone Startups 2018. In a move that is expected to further the growth of the drone scene in some of UNICEF’s programme countries, the fund has set its sights on making as much as USD 100 K equity-free investments to provide early-stage (seed) finance to for-profit technology startups that have the potential to benefit humanity through the use of drones. Essentially, UNICEF’s latest innovation fund is arriving as a window of opportunity for promising drone startups in the developing world to improve on their craft and channel these improvements toward proffering solutions to some of the immediate problems of their respective communities. pThe benefits of UNICEF’s latest initiative is expected to encompass such important aspects as seed funding, product and technology development, business growth, networks and platforms, impact maximization, exclusive access to the organization’s drone corridor located around Kasungu, Malawi (which will provide the physical space for solution testing), as well as the provision of data obtained from sister companies who are running tests in the three drone corridors where UNICEF has presence. And it appears it could not have come at a better time for drone startups on the African scene.

Africa And The Drone Invasion

Image result for unicef innovation fund for rones 2018 images

Africa has witnessed a marked increase in the number of drone registrations and deployments in recent times, albeit for different purposes which cut across recreational, surveillance, commercial geographical, and otherwise. As indicated by the figures obtained from a document released by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), which is the agency tasked with monitoring and regulating the drone industry in the country, the country’s airspace has seen an increase in the frequency and usage of Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) with an initial 216 registered RPAS in the nation as at January 2016 surging upwards to as many as 663 by October 2017. As also pointed out in the document, during the same period, remote pilot licenses are reported to have increased from 33 to a remarkable 686. There are also indications which give credence to the notion that this rapid and unprecedented advancement of RPAS and their potential use in commercial and recreational activities may have caught many regulators across the world by surprise. In many other African countries, the drone proliferation tale has been much the same; a feat which gives further evidence to the established premise.

The potentials of the African drone scene, as well as the problems bedeviling it, were the subjects of a recent drone report published by the African Union (AU), in collaboration with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). As indicated by the report, it could be surmised that there is some truth in the assertion that some of the most successful drone delivery programs in the world are currently deployed in Africa. In recent times, the continent’s drone setup has been on the receiving end of a number of significant inputs. A valid case in point exists in the form of Zipline, a national-scale medical logistics and the drone-delivery company which has implemented delivery of medical and blood supplies to clinics in some of the most remote parts of East Africa’s Rwanda. Throw that in with the earlier-mentioned first-ever drone corridor which was implemented successfully by UNICEF in Malawi for the delivery of vaccination to rural areas in the country that may be otherwise inaccessible, and it becomes clearer how much people-oriented impact has been achieved by drone implementations and deployment in the African setting.

As pointed out in the AU-NEPAD drone report, agricultural development remains Africa’s best chance of enhancing wellbeing and reducing poverty. training, it is also pertinent to note that this identified path to the continent’s economic and social liberation is hampered by input costs and uncertainties in weather patterns. In view of this, there has been something of a rallying cry for countries to put farming practices which have designs on increasing yield, lowering costs, and optimizing profit on the frontburner. The optimization of profit via increasing productivity and improving yield have been helped, in many ways, by the proliferation of a number of innovative developments that have been unearthed through the years. 

To further buttress the importance of drone technology to the African set-up going forward, it was stated as one of the resolutions of the AU-NEPAD drone report that African countries will be better served by intensifying efforts toward the promotion of precision agriculture using drones. As stated in the concluding parts of the report, “this situation calls for a review of agricultural policies and practices, and an explicit understanding that is enabling policies for the promotion of such drone technologies must be formulated.” As an addition, other areas that were also tipped by the report to be potentially impacted by drone technology included such aspects as land-use planning processes, small cargo delivery, and scientific research. Essentially, this gives some credence to the notion that the African scene may indeed be suited to the advancement of drone technology, as it supports schemes that are oriented to or can have a significant bearing on the lives of people in the most remote parts of the world. And how fitting it is that the motivation behind the latest innovation fund from UNICEF is centered about the same lines. Now, the big question is: Is Africa well-positioned for this drone incursion?

Is Africa Ready For Drones?

Image result for unicef innovation fund for rones 2018 images

When it comes to drone technology, one of the major challenges that can behave as an albatross to its development exists in the way of ignorance of the technology. Generally, drone technology is still considered as unfamiliar territory for most of the populace, as there is still an air of unfamiliarity and skepticism regarding the technology in the reckoning of some sections of the locals. From all indications, drone technologies are considered in the same category as other emerging technologies. Techniques of this kind are generally regarded as novel and unfamiliar, especially in Africa.

In any case, the technology has proved quite useful in such aspects as medical emergencies and relief response in the event of natural disasters. This is the area where Many countries have expressed willingness or showed some interest in adopting the technology, and it might yet come in handy.

As part of the bottlenecks and hurdles that impede the wide adoption of the technology, there also exists insufficiencies in the regulatory framework. The civil aviation policies in a number of African countries have no provisions that are formulated to deal with drones adequately. There are even scenarios where the technology have been banned temporarily pending the formulation of policies that cater to the adoption and use of the technology. More so, a number of reliable records indicate that only a meager 26% of African countries currently have drone regulations. These suggest that the widespread implementation of the technology across various regions of the continent might actually take some doing.

 

Current Use-Cases

Image result for unicef innovation fund for rones 2018 images

As earlier pointed out in this piece, drones are being put to good use and good effect in areas where they are legal. A number of people-focused use-cases have been reported as current implementations of the technology around the continent. The medical drone delivery programs in Eastern Africa’s Rwanda and Malawi represent just one example.

In Morocco, drone technology is currently being adopted in such spheres as agribusiness, as well as surveillance of ports and the monitoring of work progress in construction circles. Reports from Tanzania, another country in Eastern Africa, suggest that drones are employed in flood mapping, where they function in predicting the onset of floods and its potential impact while aiding decision-making on the direction of activities geared toward reducing its incidence and risk to affected communities.

Namibia, Congo, and South Africa, amongst others, have reported the utilization of the technology in the protection and conservation of wildlife species and land resources. In these areas, drones significantly cut down on the amount of manpower and time that would otherwise be required to survey and monitor vast expanses of land. And they do a good job of it too, with their high-tech features which include Artificial Intelligence (AI) and high-resolution imagery giving the technology the edge over what has always been the norm. Law enforcement agencies in these countries are also curtailing cases of big-game poaching (especially rhinos and elephants) by employing the AI incorporated into a number of state-of-the-art drones.

Africa’s Emerging Drone Industry

Over the years, the African entrepreneurship ecosystem has witnessed something of proliferation in the establishment of startups that are in the business of developing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology in the continent. With South Africa appearing to set the pace for the rest of the chasing pack, the industry can be regarded as having a lot of potentials. And here is a rundown of some of the notable names that are currently exploring new horizons and making waves in the industry.

Aerobotics is one of such startups which was birthed in 2014, in Cape Town, as the brainchild of the duo of Benji Meltzer and James Paterson. Using AI, Aerobotics is looking to deploy drones to help farmers in such places as South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom in the collection of data and monitoring the condition/population of planted crops.

Durban-based software startup, DroneScan, have developed software which allows drones to scan inventory using ScanMan software. Also worthy of mention are other drone startups such as DroneClouds, Ranmarine Technology (developers of WasteShark; a 24-hour on-the-water drone), SteadiDrone, Aerial Monitoring Solutions, RocketMine (pioneers of commercial drones in South Africa’s mining industry), WiPo Wireless Power, UAV Industries, United Drone Holdings, Arone (a Nigeria-based drone startup that has just garnered angel funding and is looking to pioneer the manufacture of drones in the West African nation), Will & Brothers, and a number of others. All these can be thought to support the prospect of a veritable and viable drone market straight out of the African setting.

Challenges And Prospects

The drone industry is envisaged to hold immense potential and significant prospects in the way of benefits for the African set-up. While a number of studies are quick to emphasize this assertion, it might also do some good not to lose sight of the challenges that lay in wait. Of all these challenges, broad adoption appears the most significant factor. Regulatory policies and technological setbacks are only the less malignant parts of a larger problem. Another concern exists in the form of economic constraints which may limit the number of individuals who can access the much-needed technology to only a few privileged persons that can afford it. Then comes the issue of social acceptance which is always rearing its ugly head as another significant drawback to the technology’s widespread implementation.

Regardless, there is a growing conviction amongst the continent’s enlightened individuals, millennials, and visionaries that drone technology holds a significant benefit for Africa in the near future. However, some degree of synergy between the private and public sectors is a prerequisite if the economic and social emancipation, which will almost certainly accompany the imminent drone invasion, will indeed come to fruition.

Students In South Africa On Entrepreneurship & Startups: A WeeTracker Exclusive

November 16

Tags

Egyptian Startup Fakahany Secures USD 700 K Seed Investment From Endure Capital And Angel Investors

Nzekwe Henry November 16

Cairo-based farm-to-door fresh produce eCommerce platform, Fakahany, has raised investment of USD 700 K in a seed funding round led by Endure Capital, who are also joined by angel investors.

Fakahany was established a year ago by the duo of Waleed Khalil and Ahmed Attia. The former also happens to be a partner at Endure Capital. The eCommerce platform makes it possible for users in Cairo and Giza to order fresh farm products like fruits and vegetables via its online platform and mobile applications for both Android and iOS. The startup is said to have its warehouses where it stores fresh produce sourced directly from partner farms.

According to Ahmed Attia, Co-Founder of Fakahany, the startup is focused on filling the void between farms and customers, as well as optimising the intermediate processes. This makes it possible for the startup to provide customers with some of the best quality produce at their doorsteps, thus, offering good value for money.

The startup appears to have witnessed significant growth since its launch, and this can be attributed to the impressive level of demand in the market for its services; a feat which the company claims has seen its revenues grow tenfold over the last one year.

Egyptian startup

Waleed Mohamed Khalil (CEO Fakahany) via LinkedIn

“We chose this vertical understanding the challenges of working with fresh produce and perishable goods. However, the great calibres that we have and the collective industry experience within our team has allowed us to build a powerful eCommerce platform and sturdy operations that enable fast growth and a seamless experience for our customers,” commented Waleed Khalil, Co-Founder and CEO of Fakahany, with regards to the development.

Tarek Fahim, General Partner at Endure Capital who lead the investment round, noted that continuous optimisation, automation, and vertical were required for sustenance in today’s business environment. He also suggested that the investment in Fakahany was borne out of confidence in the high and consistent growth which the startup has shown in such a short time while expressing belief in the ability of the startup to continue in its upward growth trajectory.

The investment is expected to be channelled into further developing the technology of the platform, as well as expanding its team, reach, and offerings. Details bordering on equity agreements are yet to be disclosed at this time.

From Selling Flip-Flops to Raking Millions in Revenues – Even War Couldn’t Break His Entrepreneurial Spirit

Nzekwe Henry November 15

Here’s the thing about humble beginnings; they are not some sort of wriggle room for the justification of mediocrity, or an excuse to settle for less. If anything, they are only a reflection of the starting point; they do not ultimately define the future of any individual.

Humble beginnings are just what they are; the beginning, the starting point — no more, no less. Not the end. And in between the beginning and the end, every individual has a choice to make between sitting on the fence and sulking over everything that is not right or taking that leap. The end is largely a function of that choice.

It’s easy to lament poor background and blame it all on the lack of opportunities for never really hitting the heights, and perhaps even justifiably so. But it does pay to view the scenario from a different perspective. Privations and hardship are undoubtedly tricky spots to get caught up in, and it’s easy to align with the popular view which attributes those to an impoverished life.

But doing a one-eighty can also reflect privations and hardship in a different light. They can also be viewed as an indication of the type of effort that would need to be put in to improve the situation, as well as a suggestion that life accomplishments have as much do with the ability to keep the prize within sight in spite of the fog as it does the decision to attempt any venture in the first place. And sometimes, it’s all about perspective. Some individuals epitomise, embody and personify this view more than others, and Fomba Trawally; one of the wealthiest men in Liberia is one of such individuals.

Having suffered untold tragedy with the demise of both his parents at an early stage in his life, the Liberian businessman had to do a number of odd jobs and petty trades to get by on a daily. At some point, he even resorted to walking considerable distances, wheelbarrow in front, selling bathroom slippers in different neighbourhoods in various parts of Monrovia.

And as if that was not difficult enough, he was also affected by the war that ravaged parts of Liberia in 1989. Rocked by the violent unrest, Fomba Trawally and family had to flee their home country and stay away for up to three years. When the violence died down, and the war came to an end, he made the return to his homeland. Upon his return, Fomba decided to start a small business even though all he could lay claim to by way of personal funds was a meagre USD 200. Fast-forward several years down the line, and the former wheelbarrow hawker now runs a company whose value is believed to run into millions of dollars.

But how could he have pulled off such a remarkable feat from such a disadvantaged position? Perhaps taking a trip down memory lane to how it all began, could reveal some answers.

Fomba Trawally, Source: BBC

Fomba Trawally was born in 1971 to poor parents in Liberia. He completed his elementary education at Voinjama Public School where he had first enrolled in 1975. He also joined Kataka Training School for his secondary education in 1981.

Kumba Beindu, Fomba’s mother, is said to have toiled day and night to fend for her children in the absence of her late husband. Getting them fed was hard work enough, let alone putting them through school. But somehow, she managed both, even though it required back-breaking work more often than not. She sold pepper and other farm produce, and it was from this small business that Fomba’s mother met the needs of her children.

Now, young Fomba was going through life one day at a time despite the privations with the future offering the only glimmer of hope, and then things took a turn for the worse. Kumba Beindu, the single surviving parent and the sole beacon of hope for Fomba and his siblings, passed on sometime in the 1980s and everything pretty much went downhill from there.

It was a very difficult time for Fomba, and his siblings as the demise of the sole breadwinner of the family left behind a huge void to fill. Before the tragedy, Fomba had had high hopes of going all the way to college, but those hopes were dashed with the death of his mother. Being the eldest in the family, Fomba had to step up to the plate and handle the baton that had been shoved into his unprepared hands at a tender age. To fend for siblings who now looked up to him, Fomba quit school and took to selling bathroom flip-flops in a wheelbarrow. He trekked several miles through various neighbourhoods in Monrovia, marketing and selling his wares. Daily income was small, but it was enough to take care of his siblings.

But that was not all he had to deal with.  Just when it looked like things were beginning to attain some semblance of stability, Fomba and his siblings soon found themselves fleeing their home country for The Gambia when war broke out in Liberia in 1989. They lived as refugees for three years before returning to Liberia when some semblance of peace resurfaced in 1992. During his time as a refugee in The Gambia, Fomba still busied himself doing odd jobs and petty trading.

Having returned to Liberia with around USD 25 in personal savings, Fomba opted to make a foray into business. And his choice of business can be said to have been a clever one. It appears Fomba’s brief spells in business both home and abroad had worked him into some kind of aptitude. Back in Liberia, Fomba Trawally identified a market opportunity which turned out a diamond in the rough.

It was the aftermath of the Liberian civil war, and the country was in a rebuilding process. The war had left a lot of ruins in its wake, and many people had had virtually nothing by way of personal belongings. There was an urgent need for footwear in the capital city, Monrovia, as a good number of people were trudging the streets barefoot. Fomba decided to start importing cheap slippers and shoes which he would sell to the many people that were beset by the situation. But with USD 25.00 in his pocket, that was never going to happen.

He began to source for funds, but in a country that was just beginning to recover from the ravages of war, it was going to be anything but easy. He did get some luck when a friend of his lent him the sum of USD 120.00 in addition to his savings, but that was still a long way off from what was required. But he decided to get started regardless.

Now armed with around USD 145.00, he established his business which he named Kumba Beindu and Sons as a tribute to his late mother in 1992. Within one year, the company had grown significantly to amass a value of around USD 3 K, which was quite a staggering sum at the time. The business expanded to include cosmetics, toiletries, and plastics as part of its products.

Gradually, the business gathered steam, and by 2005, it had become a very popular name in Liberia. An astute businessman, it wasn’t long before he diversified his trade and established three retail stores selling imported items like paper and cosmetics in Liberia. This was made possible by the networks he built in countries like China, U.S., Turkey, and Cote d’Ivoire, from where he imported those items. But he wasn’t going to rest on his oars as his next move proved he was anything but done.

In 2010, Fomba Trawally launched his next project which essentially saw him switch from importer to manufacturer. Fomba established National Toiletries Incorporated, which is considered Liberia’s first paper and toiletry products manufacturing factory. The company became fully operational in 2013, and it produces four different kinds of products: baby diapers, paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper.

In a conversation with CNN, Fomba revealed that National Toiletries Incorporated supplies products to over 1,500 businesses in Liberia. It is also known to have spread its tentacles abroad with exports to neighbouring countries like Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, and Guinea. Revenue in excess of USD 600 K is said to be grossed by the company on a yearly basis.

But it would be wrong to think all of it is coming easy. Running a manufacturing business in Liberia — a country yet recovering from a civil war that left an estimated 250,000 people dead and destroyed much of its infrastructure and economy — is not without its challenges. In the CNN interview, Fomba cited power as a major concern.
“Number one, we don’t have the power or energy in our country at this time — we’re running on a generator,” said Trawally. “You tell anyone that I’m running a factory as big as this only on a generator, they’ll tell you that you are crazy,” he added. Unreliable power and the shortage of infrastructure, coupled with high energy costs and a lack of skilled labour, are all major problems for entrepreneurs doing business in Liberia.
Fomba Trawally, who currently serves as CEO of National Toiletries Incorporated, was recently honoured with the 2018 top African International award at the 9th edition of the Africa Economy Builders, based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Mr Trawally, widely considered one of the outstanding entrepreneurs of Liberia, was honoured in recognition of his immense contribution to Liberia’s economic growth.

Fambo Trawally (2nd from right) at the 9th Edition of Africa Economy Builders; Source: LiberianObserver

In another interview with BBC, Fomba Trawally reiterated that young entrepreneurs do not always need a lot of capital to start with. “It doesn’t cost you USD 1 Mn to start a business,” he said.

“My advice to my other friends around the world is that you should be encouraged and believe that you can do everything with the little you have. My mother started with five or 10 US cents which is nothing today.”

The remarkable feat pulled by Fomba Trawally is made all the more impressive by the fact that it is coming from a country whose population hovers around just 4 million people. Throw that in with the idea that all his accomplishments have been achieved in spite poor upbringing and the numerous rutabagas life hauled his way and it becomes evident how much of an impact can be made by just about anyone even in the face of militating challenges.

 

Features Image Courtesy: CNN

CoinAfrique Welcomes New Stakeholder – France’s Media Group Trace

Andrew Christian November 15

According to a publication that broke yesterday, Senegalese mobile classified platform CoinAfrique has given an undisclosed stake to Paris-based media group Trace, making it the third deal to be reported from the Senegalese startup.

CoinAfrique is reported to have developed what is held to be one of the first mobile marketplaces for Francophone Africans, having operations in no less than 15 countries across French-speaking Africa. The startup was founded and launched in 2014 and 2015 respectively, by duo Matthias Papet and Eric Genetre.

The comments from the CoinAfrique arm of the development, according to the founders, informs that the deal is a confirmation of the strength of the startup’s growth model, also highlighting the avenue to bring about a pan-African francophone leader in the classifieds industry.

While the amount of the investment remains undisclosed, reports have it that the Senegalese startup will latch on to the audience of Trace TV to publicize CoinAfrique’s services to a wider Francophone market in Africa. This African service company currently has 400,000 active monthly users, and concerning this investment, it aims to level up the number to 10 million by 2022.

The narrative from Trace points that the undisclosed investment into the Dakar-based classifieds startup is in a bid to help the enterprise shoot up in terms of development. Oliver Laouchez, who is co-founder and CEO of Trace noted that CoinAfrique has already proven its worth, and with the potential displayed, the Paris-based media company is excited to concert efforts to the Senegalese startups’ development.

According to Oliver, Trace’s stake conforms to its investment strategy in mobile and digital service. It also is in line with the organization’s intention to bolster entrepreneurial initiatives that have significant positive effects on the African continent.

This is not the first of CoinAfrique’s feats, as it has raised € 2.5 Mn in April and sold a 15 percent stake to Investisseurs and Partenaires just last month. The startup was also among the 20 startups selected to join World Bank’s XL Africa program.

This information was first covered on Ventureburn.

Why The Next Bunch of Billionaires in Nigeria Will be Tech Startup Founders

Nzekwe Henry November 15

Imagine it’s 2030 and a Nigerian social media platform, or perhaps, a Nigeria-owned instant messaging platform, which boasts nearly a billion users, is threatening to blow everyone else out of the water, giving the usual suspects like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp a run for their money.

Also, imagine the said Nigerian tech-enabled platform is gathering momentum faster than any other on the continent because of a certain African appeal which puts it in a unique position. While all these may have come off as wishful thinking at best not so long ago, it is not exactly far-fetched at this point in time given the tech-inspired revolution that appears to be imminent, if not already upon us.

If sports were the topic of discussion, it could be said that young Nigerian techies are on a hot streak as they appear to have hit a purple patch. Tech-driven startups are springing up in various parts of the country and there has been a flurry of tech gadgets and concepts all put together by Nigerian innovators. These tech entrepreneurs appear to be breaking new grounds in a sector of the country’s economy that has hitherto been largely ignored, and it might not be long before gold is struck.

And the Nigerian government could, in fact, be said to be banking on just that! The country’s economy has been heavily reliant on oil for far too long. With the global oil market suffering a blow that it is yet to recover from which brought oil prices crashing down in recent times the clamour for the diversification of the Nigerian economy has only grown louder.

From various indications, the Nigerian government appears to have awakened to the potentials of tech and plying that route may well serve up that much-vaunted economic boost. Investing in tech at this point in time does seem like a good way to go as the country hopes to bolster its finances and improve the lives of the citizenry by not only developing home-grown tech-driven solutions that cater for some of the country’s immediate problems but also by exporting some of these Nigerian tech-inspired products to the world. And this could prove a gold mine.

If the tech revolution does come to fruition in Nigeria, the history books will be incomplete without any indication of who the players were, what informed the move to tech, and how it all came about. And even though other details seem bleak at best at this point, it could be said that some are doing more than others to give the country a future that is entrenched in or entwined with tech which seems like the way forward these days anyway.

Also Read: Meet The Nigerian Women Who Developed These 5 Amazing Apps We Use Today

Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, appears to be throwing considerable weight behind locally-developed technology and innovation in the country, as a way of breaking the oil monopoly, or perhaps, the oil-agriculture duopoly.

While crude oil prices have plunged downhill from over USD 100.00 per barrel to a price which currently hovers between USD 40.00 to USD 60.00 —  pushing the country back into the economic mire that it was just beginning to wriggle its way out of — Prof. Osinbajo can be said to have been busy charting a new course for the country as a way out of the slump. And what appears to be a campaign on tech and entrepreneurship might help to heal the country’s haemorrhaging economy.

It is on record that Nigeria’s Vice President has paid numerous visits to tech and innovation hubs across the country. On such visits, the VP is believed to have picked the brains of experts, as well as forged partnerships, with a view to establishing a number of government-owned tech hubs. And it didn’t take long before those efforts began to pay off as a number of government-backed hubs began to pop up in strategic locations across the country.

Prof. Osinbajo first unveiled the North-East Humanitarian Innovation Hub in Yola, Adamawa. During the launch, the VP remarked that the newly-opened hub will support innovative solutions to the humanitarian challenges bedevilling the country’s troubled North-Eastern region. According to him, the private sector and the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC), were to collaborate with the hub on the project.

Next up, he hinted at the proposed establishment of the South-South Innovation Hub which will be launched with a view to developing scalable solutions in such areas as education, tourism, environment, as well as the oil and gas sector. The South-East and North-Central Innovation Hub were to follow suit and these will be dedicated to solving problems associated with finance, governance, commerce, and agriculture.

See More: Nigerian Economy Is Growing And You Will Start Feeling It Soon

With these in mind, it could be surmised that these hubs are intended as mediums through which problems peculiar to each of the six geopolitical zones in the country can be addressed. The partnership with the private sector appears to be intended as a move that will ensure the sustainability of those hubs.

Fast forward a few weeks down the line and Nigeria’s number two citizen touched down on the ancient city of Benin, the capital of Edo State. During his visit to the state, he commissioned the Edo Innovation Hub; an edifice that has the capacity to host over 25 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies, as well as the facilities to cater for the training of people and residents on various ICT-based skills.

Prof. Osinbajo is known to have also paid visits to a number of hubs located in both Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, and its undisputed commercial hub; Lagos. Perhaps the highlight of it all came on 23rd June 2018 when he headlined the inauguration of what could be considered Nigeria’s largest tech hub yet in Lagos.

In what came to be called Vibranium Valley, the VP unveiled a tech hub that could drive Nigeria’s technology growth and export of innovations. Vibranium Valley is home to as many as 30 tech companies while also boasting the capacity to accommodate 50 more. The innovation hub is owned by the Venture Garden Group (VGG) and it occupies the very grounds of the once famous Concord Printing Press of Nigeria, established by the Late M.K.O. Abiola; a national icon.

“It is about technology, it is about innovations, and tech innovation is all about highly-skilled people, entrepreneurship spirit, and a supporting ecosystem of government, investors, mentors, and global collaboration,” Prof. Osinbajo fondly remarked at the opening of Vibranium Valley.

“In the past, Nigerian billionaires were traders, oil and gas moguls; in the next few years, billionaires from Nigeria will be techies. This government is taking this phenomenon seriously, demonstrated by our innovation hub plans and ease of doing business initiative,” he explained.

Quite conscious of the fact that a considerable amount of the Nation’s youth is unable to act on brilliant ideas because of the dearth of capital, the VP appears to be steering the government in the path of supporting such enterprises both financially and otherwise. Thus, creating an environment that supports the proliferation of innovation. “We believe it is our role to provide the environment where innovation can thrive, so, we are including technology startups and businesses in our list of businesses eligible for pioneer status and that means tax holidays,” he stated further, at the unveiling of the mega tech hub.

As part of the VP’s efforts which have already resulted in the establishment of three state-of-the-art government-supported technology hubs in the country, plans which will see the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bank of Industry work on intervention funds and loans for technology startups are also believed to have been set in motion.

The VP is known to have also hinted at the willingness of the administration to play a regulatory role as he intends to champion the creation of an Innovation and Technology Advisory Council to harness and foster the creativity and innovative ingenuity of young Nigerians, as well as accelerate the growth of the country’s tech sector.

Although the country’s Industrial and Competitive Council is already tasked with shouldering some of those responsibilities, a move of that nature could be interpreted to imply that the interest in fostering technology and innovation in the country has intensified in recent times and the VP appears to be not only a figurehead but also an ardent believer in the campaign.

It does make for an even more interesting narrative when some thought is given to the idea that the VP was also at the center of a recent announcement which suggested that Nigeria’s ongoing digital identification of all citizens and legal residents on a harmonized platform will be the largest database in Africa, and only second in the world to the Aadhaar of India.  

Prof. Osinbajo is known to have also hinted at the ability of the said project to unlock a lot of opportunities in different sectors when he delivered the keynote address in the “Technology As A Catalyst Conference,” which was held in Lagos recently.

In the latter parts of his keynote, the VP revealed that the “E-government Master Plan” had been approved by the Federal Executive Council. This project is expected to see the National Information Technology Development Agency collaborate with Galaxy Backbone to implement the interoperability framework that would provide a shared platform for the benefit of ministries, departments, and agencies. Throw that in with the rest of his posturing as of late and it might be concluded that the VP is on some kind of personal mission to spark a tech revolution in Nigeria.

There is undoubtedly a large amount of work left undone on this front as it is not entirely out of place to describe these recent moves as baby steps at this point in time, but they may yet prove the all-important springboard to the giant leaps that will need to be taken in shaping Nigeria’s tech future.

And it will be quite interesting to see how this pans out given that the country’s general elections are due in a few months. Will the current administration be returned to the office to continue the revolution, or will the tech scene be shunted out wide with the coming of a new dispensation? Well, that sounds like one for the voters to decide come 2019. In any case, we do know someone who is doing his bit to support technology and innovation in the country, and it remains to be seen whether that proves successful in the end, or just another effort in futility. Either way, the history books will surely be written.

 

Feature Image Courtesy: The Eagle Online

Powered by Calculate Your BMI