BrandArena: CNN visits Nigeria’s equivalent of Silicon Valley

Friday, 30 June 2017

CNN visits Nigeria’s equivalent of Silicon Valley

Eleni Giokos, host of ‘CNN Marketplace Africa’, meets the tech startups that are based in the Lagos suburb of Yaba, now dubbed Yabacon Valley, which is becoming Nigeria’s own take on California’s Silicon Valley.

Giokos meets investment banker turned entrepreneur, Jay Alabraba who recognized the need for an efficient mobile money transfer system in Nigeria’s heavily cash-based economy. Alabraba tells Giokos about Paga, his easy and efficient payment system: “With Paga people can make all kinds of payments, directly to businesses or even transfer money to other individuals or businesses, bill payment, air time top up…We're also involved in the international money transfer space now. So, the convenience is really really huge. It's about giving people back more of their time.”

Alabraba explains the benefits of establishing a company in Yaba: “So many great things have happened in Yaba, infrastructure has been great, we have fiber here so internet is really quite stable and fast. And other startups, other peers and partners that we work with have moved to the neighborhood as well.”

He continues by identifying the opportunities that the tech sector is creating for the country: “Nigeria is an extremely interesting opportunity when anyone is looking at an emerging market. It's a market that is hard to ignore. The tech industry does have a great role to play in pretty much any sector you're thinking about. It may be in banking, it may be in agriculture, it may be in manufacturing, but technology has a role to play in just making systems more efficient.”

The programme speaks to Femi Longe, co-founder of Co-Creation Hub, a space where innovators can find resources to create tech based solutions to local challenges. Longe discussed the inspiration and rationale for founding her business: “We started really out of frustration, the same social challenges we had in Nigeria when we were kids, we believe that the solution to get Nigeria and Africa and lots of the developing world out of the current state of where they are, is going to come from smart people putting their energies in entrepreneurial ways of addressing the problems our societies face.”

Femi Longe and her business partner Tunji Eleso were one of the first companies to set up their business in Yaba. They've seen the neighborhood grow significantly from less than ten startups five years ago, to well over 75 today. Longe explains how her business looks to educate and encourage others about solving problems and overcoming challenges: “There's problems in our healthcare system, there's problems in our education system, there's problems in the way society is governed. The typical thinking in the past was that those problems were the job of NGOs to fix or the government to fix. What we're telling people is to see how we can reframe that thinking to say “If I see a problem in my society, I can actually create a business out of solving that problem.”

CNN learns that the country's Minister of Technology wants to improve Nigeria's internet connectivity which, despite the growing start-up industry, is still behind countries like Kenya or Rwanda.

Barr. Adebayo Shittu tells the programme about the intention to increase internet connectivity and the opportunities that this creates: “We hope that with the current state of 18% connectivity, that by 2018 we will be able to grow it to 30%. With Nigeria's population of about 200 million, the market is there for the investor.”

Shittu goes on to explain that Nigeria is trying to diversify its economy and is looking at the technology sector as a source of jobs: “Today, the ICT sector employs more Nigerians to work than the oil industry which provides about 90% of our income as a country, and the opportunities are limitless. Over the years almost 99% of our income had been through oil. Today the figures have changed and I believe they will continue to change with new initiatives by the private sector to drive ICT development.”

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