With The Shopping Season Round The Corner, Here Is A Sneak Peek At The African E-Commerce Industry

Team WeeTracker October 9

A report by International Post Corporation predicts that global e-commerce sales will go up by 141% between 2016 and 2021. Today it’s rare to find a smartphone without an application for online shopping. People find it much more convenient to sit at home and choose from a vast variety to save themselves from the trouble of going out and hunting for the right product in 10 different shops.  

Amazon and Alibaba are the largest players with Amazon’s market cap touching USD 1 trillion in September 2018, and Alibaba nearing half a trillion. They have avoided mainly direct competition by dominating different parts of the world, but they are widening their reach by buying up the smaller local platforms. Their acquisitions mean that the global e-commerce landscape is consolidating. While Amazon currently dominates North America and Europe, Alibaba controls China and has made a web of strategic partnerships and investments in Southeast Asia.

However, there lies fierce competition in some economies, especially in burgeoning e-commerce markets of India, Australia, and Singapore. In India, the two are already in direct competition, where Alibaba and its affiliate Ant Financial have more than 50% stake in local payments and e-commerce platform Paytm Mall. While homegrown giant Flipkart, the second largest player in the market with 40% market share, has lately closed a deal to sell 77% stake to Walmart. Amazon here leads with 44% share.

Singapore is seeing Amazon struggle against local biggie Lazada which Alibaba had acquired and operates as a marketplace in the six Southeast Asian countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. In China, apart from Alibaba’s TMall and Taobao, JD.com, Suning and Vip.com are the major players. While Amazon is a clear leader in Europe, regional players like Zolando, Otto, Casino and plenty of others.

What’s up with Africa?

A combination of several factors, amongst which the dearth of internet access, high illiteracy rate, and inefficiencies in logistics are considered the most telling drawbacks, form the bulk of the reason why eCommerce in Africa hasn’t exactly hit the heights or reached its full potential. While most of these problems are far from taken care of, the penetration of mobile devices Рmost notably, smartphones Рwhich can be attributed to advancements in technology and innovation, have made access to the internet and mobile payment systems something of a given for millions of Africans.

By virtue of this development, it might not be exactly out of place to refer to the continent as the next big thing when it comes to online shopping. And it does seem like the numbers are in favor of this claim as data from Statista estimates that the African eCommerce industry is expected to rake in around USD 29 Bn in revenue by 2022, and that is after generating up to USD 16.5 Bn in 2017.  

According to data from Emergent Payments, despite boasting a population of around 1.25 billion people drawn out from 54 countries, the penetration of the internet on the continent still stands at only 35 percent. This can be construed to imply that there might still be a lot of work left to do in that regard. More so, of the proportion of the continent’s consumer base who can lay claim to having internet access, only a relatively meager fraction can be said to utilize desktop or laptop computers to surf the web.

Putting two and two together might suggest that Africa‚Äôs eCommerce market is predominantly mobile-based. It will be accurate to add that in combination with mobile-friendly payment systems, mobile devices have largely been the ‚Äėgo-to guy‚Äô in the area of exploring the prospects of eCommerce on the continent. And this can be thought to have provided a pathway for the exploration of shopping opportunities in locations that would be otherwise unreachable due to the absence of physical stores and other infrastructure.

The Challenges Of eCommerce In Africa

  • Due to drawbacks associated with logistics and even fraud, the posture of African towards eCommerce can be considered somewhat apprehensive. In other words, Africans do not exactly jump at the idea of shopping online because of an inherent lack of trust in the system. Although significant progress has been made in this regard in recent times, as is evident in the increasing number of Africans that are known to now favour the online route for their shopping activities, there is still some work to be done in the area of imparting a more relaxed mindset and a receptive demeanor to Africans on the subject.

 

  • eCommerce on the continent is hampered by the shortage of far-reaching and widespread street address systems in a considerable number of African countries. Throw that in with the lack of infrastructure in the form of good road networks which doesn‚Äôt fill global logistics companies with optimism and there looms another problem. This brings about the high cost of logistics as last mile deliveries and transportation come at abnormally exorbitant costs in parts of the continent. The situation that has made motorcycles something of the most-used mode of transport for deliveries. There also exists a tracking and communication gap as customers are often left with no choice but to incur extra expenses by using calls to keep track of their purchases, which often discourages interest in shopping online.

 

  • There is also a challenge in that a significant proportion of the African population is unbanked. In spite of that,¬†nearly 280 million Africans are known to have mobile wallets; a figure that is over three times the number of African who possess bank accounts. More so, the average of African digital consumer is placed at a relatively precocious 19 years. And this could imply that older African consumers are more suited to the cash-on-delivery (COD) arrangement, which actually still represents the most favored method of payment on the continent.

 eCommerce In Some African Countries

eCommerce can be considered to have done reasonably well in such countries as Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya — three countries that are known to¬†top the charts in African eCommerce sales.

With a population of over 180 million people, Nigeria is considered Africa’s most populous nation, and the country is also known to be the largest economy on the continent in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Accounting for up to 40 percent of Africa’s eCommerce ventures, the country is home to the most number of eCommerce platforms on the continent. But in spite of all these somewhat impressive figures, internet penetration still stands at somewhere around 48 percent in the country.

Weighing in at a population of around 55.5 million is South Africa, which also boasts a significant population of middle-class citizens and probably the best offerings when it comes to cross-border potential. The country could, however, do better than the 54 percent which represents the degree of the reach of the internet in the country at present.

Kenya does serve up an interesting prospect, though. The East African country whose population is placed around 48.5 million does weigh in with an impressive 79 percent in the area of internet penetration. M-Pesa; a mobile wallet provider that is the creation of mobile telecom provider, Safaricom, is known to have garnered considerable interest and use from Kenyans since it came into existence.

According to a GSMA report, M-Pesa is currently seeing use from over 40 percent of Kenyan adults. Its creators, Safaricom, are also reported to have recently sealed partnership with global fintech giants, PayPal, which will see Kenyans make money transfers between PayPal and M-Pesa mobile wallets with relative ease. And this partnership could well serve to help Kenyan enterprises that wish to sell abroad gain access into the global markets. Essentially, the narrative from Kenya might be suggestive that eCommerce thrives under an atmosphere that is buoyed by secure payment systems, as well as far-reaching and reliable internet access.

Notable African eCommerce Platforms

Africa is not exactly a haven when it comes to selling products and services online. This claim is afforded even more substance when thought is given to the fact that even global eCommerce giants like Amazon have not done much to demonstrate any real interest in launching a major onslaught on the African market.

There are over 200 startups in Africa that are known to be plying the eCommerce route, and it has not been exactly a profitable journey as a significant proportion of these enterprises are a long way off from actually garnering substantial revenue. It also evokes mixed reactions that enterprises from only a handful of African countries account for the bulk of investments in this venture.

Having raised USD 150 Mn in 2014 alone, Africa’s best-funded eCommerce startup can be found in Nigeria-based Jumia Group which now has presence in 14 countries in Africa and the Middle East (with each country having its site), while employing up to 3,000 people since coming into existence in 2012 as the creation of Berlin-based Rocket Internet.

Since announcing its presence in Nigeria, the company is believed to have made significant strides in the country’s eCommerce sector by putting together a logistics infrastructure that incorporates over 500 motorbikes and trucks. This is known to facilitate its deliveries in major Nigerian cities. As has been earlier highlighted, COD which is largely favored as a payment method in Africa is also accepted by Jumia.

Another Nigerian eCommerce startup, Konga, started with the sales of baby and beauty products when it first hit the scene in 2012. Although the eCommerce platform only has operations in Nigeria, the site is believed to possess a customer base that is on the threshold of a million, as well as 300,000 visitors daily.

The company opened a third-party marketplace called Seller HQ in 2014, while also boasting its own logistics network called KOS Deliveries which has over 200 vehicles (vans, trucks, and motorbikes) set aside for the purpose of making deliveries. Pick-up points and distribution centers in various locations are also available on the platform, as well as a unique payment system, KongaPay, which is featured on some Nigerian banking platforms. The platform is known also to serve up a unique offering which provides that the money of customers are held in escrow until sales transactions are completed.

Local hardware and information technology services company, Zinox, are reported to have acquired the company earlier this year with such factors as financial losses and the inability to fund growth allegedly playing a role in the sale.

Kenya’s Kilimall is another notable African eCommerce platform. The company which is known to also sell in Nigeria and Uganda offers both affiliate and seller programs to small African businesses. Also worthy of mention is Kenya’s Sky.Garden which essentially offers a SaaS mobile platform and is believed to now also have more than 3,000 sellers and 23,000 unique products in 30 different categories. For good measure, the platform is known to only accept M-Pesa payments, which is the same mode it employs in making payments to its merchants.

South Africa’s Takealot also appears to be holding its own in the African eCommerce environment. The company came into existence in 2011 after Tiger Global Management acquired an existing eCommerce company. Takealot is known to have received a capital boost when its parent company invested USD 100 Mn in the eCommerce platform back in 2014. The infusion of funds is believed to have been instrumental to the subsequent purchase of logistics company, Mr. D Delivery, which afforded Takealot its delivery network with as many as 900 drivers on the roster. In addition to deliveries, Takealot claims to offer pick-ups from its warehouse in Cape Town every day of the week, while also offering such services as storage, fulfillment, and delivery, as well as customer service to its merchants.

Cross-Border Potential

Africa’s shortcomings in physical retail infrastructure might come across as a drawback at first glance, but a view from a different perspective would reveal that it does put cross-border eCommerce in a favorable position.

This is largely true for individuals who are looking to purchase western products from local online businesses whose platforms support payments in the local currency. In any case, Africa is not exactly an easy terrain when it comes to online selling so best practices might dictate that cross-border merchants leverage existing local platforms for their sales.

China is known to currently lead proceedings¬†in cross-border sales in Africa as it would appear the continent favors the sale of products that are relatively inexpensive — and this happens to be the forte of the Chinese. Goods from the U.K. also appear to be holding their own in African countries that are British colonies.

More so, countries like Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa are expected to deliver most of the sales in cross-border eTrade, and individuals from some of these countries are known to be already thronging British, American, and Chinese online shopping sites. With that in mind, it might be advisable for cross-border sellers in those countries to form business relationships with local payment platforms and providers of courier services.

Small local businesses are largely the focus of Africa-based eCommerce sites as most of these platforms are known to support third-party sellers. However, Nigeria’s Mall for Africa is known to be towing a slightly different line as it believed to afford Africans the opportunity to shop from around 250 online platforms in the U.S. and U.K., with DHL Express shipping services available in over 60 of those including names as Amazon and eBay.

The company is known to currently be operational in 15 African countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, and Rwanda. It also boasts numerous pick-up locations in these countries which serve to make purchased goods easily obtainable for people living in locations that lack standard physical address systems. Also incorporated into the platform is its very own debit card which allows for shopping in over 180 online platforms in the U.S. and U.K.

 

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

November 16

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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

‚ÄúWe 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,‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚ÄôIvoire, from where he imported those items. But he wasn‚Äôt 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. ‚ÄúIt doesn‚Äôt cost you USD 1 Mn to start a business,‚ÄĚ he said.

‚ÄúMy 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.‚ÄĚ

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 ‚Äď France‚Äôs 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‚Äôs feats, as it has raised ‚ā¨ 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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.

‚ÄúIt 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,‚ÄĚ Prof. Osinbajo fondly remarked at the opening of Vibranium Valley.

‚ÄúIn 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,‚ÄĚ he explained.

Quite conscious of the fact that a considerable amount of the Nation‚Äôs 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. ‚ÄúWe 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,‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄúTechnology As A Catalyst Conference,‚ÄĚ which was held in Lagos recently.

In the latter parts of his keynote, the VP revealed that the ‚ÄúE-government Master Plan‚ÄĚ 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

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