On the Hunt for Innovation

One city at a time.

Participants at an Idea Sprint Workshop

Whenever I hear the word ‘innovation’, my first thoughts are about something that’s revolutionary, different, new, better-than-the- norm, yet simplistic and ingenious.

On the 12th of April, Union Bank of Nigeria (UBN) in partnership with Co-Creation Hub (CcHUB); sought to embrace innovation from all across Nigeria. Known as the Centenary Innovation Challenge, it was an attempt towards addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in entrepreneurial ways to mark the bank’s 100 years of service and heritage and I was rather excited to get involved.

The search for Nigerians who were paying attention to Food Security, Financial Inclusion and Education would take us from Lagos to Osogbo, Enugu, Port-Harcourt, Kaduna and the Federal Capital Territory: Abuja. We met with entrepreneurs, software developers, academics and students who turned out in their numbers to the Idea Sprint Workshops we had organised to ensure that individuals understood the purpose of the challenge and were able to submit applications that were not just innovative, but thought-provoking.

Working in groups, teams came up with brilliant ideas for addressing some of the most pressing challenges that confront us as Nigerians including agriculture, health, education, transportation and access to financial services and products.

Entries closed in May with over 1,500 applications submitted from across the country:

A good number of ideas were submitted by those who considered themselves entrepreneurs owing to their participation in one self-employed activity or another, followed closely by software developers, students, academics and others :

Not surprisingly, as with everything else in the country, the male folk dominated the challenge with more men applying than women:

With reports showing that Nigeria’s food waste costs the economy $750 billion annually as “80% of food is wasted in Nigeria vs 33% in the world,” I was impressed to find that significant number of people gave considerable thought to boosting food security in the country:

One thing is indisputably clear from our travels across the country and the many entries that have been submitted: Nigerians, given the opportunity, tools and resources are capable of generating real solutions to challenges we face as a nation. Nigerians are not lacking in ideas nor are they lazy, waiting supinely for the proverbial manna from heaven to fall.

Rather, the germane question is, what do we do with this bountiful talent and resources that we have been given as a people? Surely we can’t be the only ones thinking in this way and manner.

One can only hope that this challenge does not go the way of countless others, ending up as just innovations on paper. Authorities, the organised private sector, capitalists and other committed individuals need to rise up to the challenge, join hands with these inventive individuals to find an urgent solution to the problems threatening our existence as a people.

P.S., details to follow on the shortlisted ideas.

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