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Impact Hubs: How “Yaba” is bridging the Silicon Valley Gap in Nigeria

“Next stop: Lagos!” That was how Mark Zuckerberg announced his visit to Nigeria in August 2016. “This is my first trip to sub-Saharan Africa”, the Facebook CEO added. “I’ll be meeting with developers and entrepreneurs, and learning about the start-up ecosystem in Nigeria. The energy is amazing and I’m excited to learn as much as I can”.

To the founder of Facebook it may have been a routine trip, but to Nigerians it was a stamp of approval for some of the great work young innovators are producing in the nation’s start-up ecosystem. Quietly but steadily, young Nigerians are gradually creating an innovation platform that could help bridge the gap between the Yaba region and Silicon Valley.

Although far off from the flair and opulence of the globally famous tech hub, Yabacon Valley does however provide a semblance of budding local talent that would make innovators from abroad envious. From this steadily developing part of Lagos, Co-creation Hub, has caught the eye of the tech world, especially leading players such as Mark Zuckerberg. Co-Creation Hub, or CcHub, is a social innovation centre dedicated to accelerating the application of social capital and technology for economic prosperity in Nigeria. The hub’s simple yet methodical approach involves 3 facets: community, open living lab and pre-incubation services. Here, ideas are discovered, shared, developed, funded, and scaled.

While CcHub may need some introduction, Andela has grown beyond the shores of Nigeria but still has its roots in Yabacon Valley. The programming education platform, which runs intensive courses in Nigeria and Kenya, “selects the top 1% of tech talent from the largest pool of untapped talent in the world—the African continent”. As a testament to how successful Andela’s model has become, Seni Sulyman, Country Director of Andela Nigeria, had this to say: “Zuckerberg’s visit reinforces not only his support of Andela’s mission, but his belief that indeed much of the next generation of great technology leaders already exists in Lagos and cities across Africa. His visit was also a wake-up call for everyone. Yes, we can cultivate world-class talent right here in Nigeria. Yes, we can work with clients across the globe, adding immense value to their technology teams. Yes, we can get the world’s attention. And maybe, just maybe, next we can write our own future as a generation”.

Considering both CcHub and Andela, it is easy to see the common denominator: Innovation. Gradually, Nigerians with some global work experience are not only shaping the country’s future, they’re re-inventing the wheels of technological progress as well as adding value to the global innovation ecosystem. As young, talented Nigerians make their impact felt across the globe, either as innovators or as direct or indirect benefactors of an impact hub, there is a strong belief that more inherent talent should be put to use.

Where Silicon Valley has Facebook, Google and Uber, Nigeria has Konga and Jumia, with Yabacon Valley gradually providing highly effective location-based solutions to local issues. For example, with Paga, you can “pay bills on the go”; Hotels.ng processes local reviews from Expedia; and Wakanow “has you covered” when it comes to sourcing flight tickets that you can pay for in instalments prior to your trip. All of these platforms offer local solutions to local problems.

The visit of Mark Zuckerberg to Yaba, together with his investment in Nigeria’s budding tech community, is proof that impact hubs play an integral role in the development of a nation and its people.

By Onome Okwah, Country Manager, Nigeria

Photo Credit: Facebook