Looking Ahead: Building Tech Communities Beyond Yaba
Because Jollof Rice Doesn't Cook Itself.
Note: When I write stuff, it is MY OPINION at that moment. It is just a single person’s perspective not intended to be law. Nothing stops you from giving yours and hopefully countering mine.
This is somewhat of a follow up of my previous post where I argued that Yaba
- Yaba does not have what it took to be THE tech hub of Nigeria
- People leaving Yaba wasn’t a sign that it was failing.
- Other parts of Lagos should be integrated into a single tech cluster.
- Other parts of the country had to be “carried along” in building tech in Nigeria.
However, while a lot of people agreed with me, there was the general surprising sentiment that the usually agreeable and peace loving Oo instigated a lot of division and did a lot of demarketing of Yaba.
After having a lot of conversations with people offline and offline (including 'Bosun), I believe I have been able to identify my point of disagreement with some core promoters of Yaba.
While they agree there is more outside of Yaba, they believe strongly that a strong foundation is yet to be completed in Yaba.
My counter argument is, “while you are heads down focused on Yaba, growth is happening outside of Yaba and without guidance, it may end up not growing in the way we want and we will still be impacted”
Using Lagos as an example: while the Lagos State Government was focused on ‘planning’ VI, Ikoyi and co, the unfortunate Ajah and Ikorodu did not wait. They still grew and grew they did in the most horrible of ways and now affects all of Lagos.
If 100 companies do it right in Yaba and 5,000 not in Yaba are guided by another philosophy, which would have the greater influence?
So I’ve agreed to disagree with the folks in Yaba as in — while it is very possible there is a lot more to be done in Yaba, I think we can and should also try to grow communities elsewhere concurrently.
Jollof Rice Doesn't Cook Itself
While a lot of people supported my assertion there is stuff happening outside Yaba, they couldn’t identify “where”; neither can I.
Using Lagos as an example, there are technology companies in Ikeja, Lekki, VI, Ikoyi, Surulere etc, one cannot identify them.
Let’s look outside Lagos — asides nHub in Jos, CoLab in Kaduna, Ventures Platform in Abuja and the Startup South annual conference in Port Harcourt, one cannot put a finger on there being a larger tech community in those places. There most likely is, but where?
This would need to change if the perception that “it is only in Yaba things are happening” is to change.
As Jollof Rice doesn't cook itself, a technology community doesn’t just happen by itself. It’s a thankless job that has to be led and put together.
Yaba didn’t “just happen”. It was a deliberate effort that it is still ongoing. People in other places would have to make it happen for other places.
The first step would be for a company and/or leader should step up to the plate and begin by identifying companies around them that are technology driven. For instance, Lekki Phase 1 has Heels.com.ng, Wakanow, Vienna Hub (Auto Genius), and Pay with Capture etc, I don’t recollect there being half a meetup there.
Companies and individuals not just hubs should volunteer their spaces, skills and money to get things going.
The folks running hubs in Abuja, Jos, Kaduna will need to reach out outside those that work out of or are affiliated with their hubs. Deliberate action is needed to get these clusters/communities up. Speaking with one loud voice will mean for instance, getting the governor to waive and accelerate of the right of way for putting fibre internet in a particular area.
I have to mention it again that building a community is thankless. I have said privately so many times out of frustration, “look at the most successful tech founders in these parts, practically none of them distract themselves with this ecosystem nonsense”. But people should undertake it because there is selfish interest to benefit if the tech ecosystem is built on values we care about in tech. e.g, the “pay it forward”, collaboration and open source culture.
I’m happy that after a twitter exchange with Gbolahan a few weeks ago, he’s gone forward to organize (one of) the first meetp(s) on Owerri. It is also exciting to see self organizing University clusters like UNN, Covenant and Ife making thing happen. I hope other Universities take not and it spills to their wider communities.
Without self organizing the different areas into clusters and communities, the truth is, if someone is visiting Nigeria and asks, “I am interested in seeing the Nigerian tech scene, where do I go?” most of us will still have to go “Yaba. Start from CcHub”.
[Our techosystem has access to the biggest, richest and most powerful companies in the world -Google + Facebook + Microsoft, however, we cannot even influence state governments talk less of Federal because we have not harnessed our capacity. It is why for instance NIPOST was shameless to announce to the world a deal to handover Nigeria’s addressing system to a private foreign company ]