ADVANCING INNOVATION IN NIGERIA
It appears that Nigeria still lives up to its title, as the “Giant of Africa”, going by a report titled, ‘Building a conducive setting for innovation to thrive’, compiled by Briter Bridges and Afrilabs. It showed that, Nigeria has the highest number of hubs, on the African continent, totaling 90, with South Africa trailing behind with 78.
Start-ups, in their numbers have emerged and continue to emerge in their hundreds. Yes, some have survived independently, irrespective of poor institutions and infrastructure that have plagued the country but alas, many more that ordinarily would have survived, if the environment was more friendly, have died. One thing is evident despite the challenges, technological innovations, evolving from start-ups in Nigeria appears to have re-shaped the perception of technology, both from within and beyond the shores of the country.
In 2019, Nigeria and Kenya, ranked highest as joint destination for start-up investment, with a total of 81.5 per cent in investment. Nigerian hubs, through their available work space, have incubated a significant number of start-ups in the country, while leveraging technology to build indigenous services and solutions.
Many of these start-ups have provided solutions, especially, in the finance industry (fintechs), agriculture, logistics and transportation as well as health. These solutions, I daresay are purely, locally-based content, meaning that, Nigeria has got the set skill and mentality, to seek advancement in technology and apply same to solving the immediate needs within the country.
In the Fintech space, for instance, Kudi provides access to financial services for the unbanked and underbanked population in Nigeria, with access to financial services, which include cash withdrawal from agents, utility bills payment and money transfer. In 2019, the Fintech start-up raised $5m. The funding round was led by a global investment firm Partech Partners. An agritech start-up, Farmcrowdy,in 2017 raised $1m from Techstars, Cox Ventures and Social Capital, (foreign investors) It raised the same amount, in 2019. In the logistics space, Kobo360 has raised a combined total of $37.3m in six rounds of funding.
What more can we say with these foreign bodies investing their fund in tech-driven solutions, designed by Nigerians? Is it not safe to ask, if foreign investors trust the capability and ingenuity of Nigerian products, then, what stops Nigerian investors, from towing the same path?
Solutions from indigenous technology have ways of impacting technical development and this process, also, tends to increase the call for more innovation, within the ecosystem, to foster technological advancement and creative innovation. Economic growth lies nowhere, but in what is present in the country and how effective its resources can be utilised, without dependence on foreign assistance.
The technological advancement witnessed today has gone beyond what anyone could have imagined in the past. Unlike before, advancement has gone beyond inventing gadgets, but rather, innovations in the realm of Robotics, Virtual Reality, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. With the proliferation of innovation hubs across the country, start-ups with creative innovative concepts can shift more of the narrative on advancing the technologies mentioned earlier. Nigeria, of course, has the human and mental capacity to look inwards.
One cannot deny that government’s effort in advancing technological innovation in the country has not been enough and not much input has been forthcoming from the relevant ministries. A good number of countries have, however, been able to prevail over this deficit through the adoption of industrial strategies. A combined effort from both the public and private enterprise is required to unleash the economic potential of advancing technology to the development of Nigeria.
The government does not necessarily need to start building hubs everywhere but rather basic infrastructure and change in attitude are required for a process that can drive technological advancement. Now. What does technology and innovation do, to Nigeria as a country and what strategic steps should be taken, to ginger investment, from the country’s indigenous tech solutions?
First, technology represents a positive energy that tends to enhance the capacity of humans to evolve. What led to the industrial revolutions the world has seen? As new challenges surfaced in the life of humans, they had to seek for ways to adapt and create inventions that could help in surmounting those challenges, through the passage of time.
Communication over the phone has drastically changed today from the time of the first invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell, for instance. Developed countries are not just tagged developed because they already attained the peak of development; rather they keep on inventing and re-inventing through innovation to remain at the top of technological advancement.
In recent times, through STEM Education, four young girls, from Queen’s College, Lagos, leveraging technology have developed a waste bin that does not require the user to touch the bin’s lid. This is an example of an innovation solving an immediate and daily challenge. Asides from developing this tech lid, the young girls have also thought of hygiene, keeping healthy, while disposing waste. This may appear not new in the disruptive world of innovation, however, for a country like Nigeria where technology has not taken off fully, innovation from secondary schools should be highly encouraged.
The Federal government needs to go beyond mere intentions and make more deliberate and concerted efforts in ensuring that pragmatic policies are duly effected. This, in turn, will draw more investment in the ecosystem and establish a sustainable economic development.
The developed countries we see today were once at the developing stage too. They did not just emerge from the blues. They sought for growth and development by looking inwards and went through the developmental stages. If Nigeria seeks the same path to advance its current state of technology, then growth has to come from within, taking advantage of what can be used from what the developed world already has.