Over three decades ago, Nigeria was being championed as “the giant of Africa” due to its booming economy from the discovery of oil. Now, celebrating 58 years since independence and with the dwindling rates of prices, not much can be said about this so-called Giant. For years, analysts and intellectuals have speculated on what would be the fuel to kick-start Nigeria’s economy to restore, or even surpass, its former glory. Could it be agriculture? Could it be opening more refineries? Could it be technology?
Technology is constantly reinforcing regional trends in business, investment, opportunities and modernization. Africa now has at least 200 separate tech hubs which have sprung up in the last few years. The number of new tech ventures has also risen to 3500, with $1 billion in venture capital available to accelerate these, since 2016.
In the last five years, Nigeria has also been part of the technological awakening. The country has seen a myriad of “technopreneurs” and startups bubbling up all across the country as well as the rise of various Innovation or Tech hubs in almost every state in the country. In fact, the Zuckerberg-Chan initiative invested $24 million in the Nigerian company Andela in June 2016, which caused quite a stir in the software and IT companies. Mark Zuckerberg, during his visit to Nigeria in September 2016, proclaimed
that the future would be built in Africa, yet not much can be seen as evident changes.
In 2017, Global Competitive Report ranked Nigeria as 106 out of 140 countries on technological readiness with a score of 4 out of 7, a rank of 117 out of 140 countries on innovation with a score of 2.8 out of 7. In the 2018 report, Nigeria remained unashamedly unmoved in its position, ranking 118th out of 126 economies. In the same vein, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) released a report on the 2017 ICT Development Index (IDI), which measured the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) development in Africa – Nigeria was ranked 15th in Africa and 143rd out of 176 countries, recording absolutely no change from the previous year before. One might think that there is an urgent need to take large strides at once in order to see real changes but I believe it is in the little things. For example, Nigeria is still one of the most expensive countries in terms of data prices and the infrastructure deficit all make for a crappy consumer internet rating. In terms of average internet connection speed, the report shows that Nigeria ranks 114 out of the 147 countries ranked globally with an average speed of 3.9 Megabytes per second (Mbps).
However, Kenya, now considered the Tech Capital of Africa, has the fastest internet speed on the continent and 3G internet connections have become more and more affordable for the nationals. Though civilian disruption is key — like the establishment of tech hubs and startups by disruptive Nigerians — government policies in tech are even more important in the advancement of the economy.
How did Kenya become Africa’s Silicon Valley?
The tech awakening can be traced back to Kenya, which has been home to several major technological innovations between 2007 and 2010. These innovations birthed Kenya as the Silicon Valley of innovation in Africa. Now, Kenya, is known as Africa’s tech capital or Silicon Savannah because it recognized, quite early, that technology is a huge factor for accelerating globalization in developing countries. Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, has a tech scene that could be worth as much as $1 Billion to Kenya by 2019, according to Bloomberg reports. The city is now known as a technology epicenter where startup
weekends and innovations meet ups hold, and accelerators, incubator events and investors get together. From its agile mobile banking system to its conducive ecosystem for tech and digital entrepreneurs, it is easy to see why Nairobi has one of East Africa’s highest concentrations of US dollar millionaires. According to Venture Capital for Africa, there were 3 key factors that made Kenya the technology nest it
- Kenya government at the forefront of technology development – investors are being lured toninvest in Nairobi, and are heeding the call positively so and the city has positioned itself as an investor friendly city by being open to aid agencies, development funds and foreign NGO’s.
- The birth of M-Pesa revolution by Vodafone in 2003 and subsequent launch by Safaricom in 2007. This revolution inspired many to be tech entrepreneurs and proactively launch startups.
- The launch of iHub in 2010 – as an open space for startups, positioned Kenya’s capital, Nairobi as the future of startups, technology and innovation. These factors have given rise to the following positive results in Tech:
- 54 startups in Nairobi are on AngelList
- iGDP account for 2.3%
- 1% – average annual growth of services in economy
- 96th in the world – according to the Global Competitiveness Index (World Economic Forum)
- 8400 number of dollar millionaires, 5th in the African continent
- 31% of GDP in Kenya is processed through M-Pesa
- 99% of total internet subscription derive from mobile data contributions
- $140.3 million – capital invested with public funds into startups in 2012
- 4 major accelerators active in Kenya – 88Mph, Savannah Fund, Sinopsis Group and The Growth Hub
- 2 major incubators are active – iLab Africa and mLab, and
- 3 major co-working spaces exist – Business Lounge, Genius Executives and iHub.
It is easy to see why the country is leading the tech scene in Africa.
What can Nigeria do?
Nigeria is on the verge of another presidential election and voters are encouraged to choose wisely. Having a tech-inclined president, or at least a president who knows the importance of focusing on technology, would be a step in the right direction. A government at the forefront of technology development, whose policies favor a friendlier tech ecosystem, can close the existing STI investment gaps. If the Nigerian government took strategic steps to advance more ICT infrastructure and to actively tap on technology as an economic drive of GDP growth, advancement, value addition and most importantly, job creation, then maybe we could boast of being the giants of Africa, again.