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Revisiting MainOne CEO’s keynote at NCC’s Research and ICT innovation forum

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MainOne CEO
  • Agriculture without TECH cannot save us – Funke Opeke

[Part one]

Tech ecosystems globally are providing disruption that lead to innovations in existing sectors and creation of new sectors in the economy.

It is an interconnected, interdependent network of tech startups and entrepreneurs; global tech companies; hubs/accelerators, investment groups; universities and research institutes and organisations that are driving what is today referred to as the 4th Industrial Revolution.

These were the opening remarks by the Chief Executive Officer of MainOne, Funke Opeke, in a Lead Paper titled, “Developing Nigeria’s Tech Ecosystem; Imperative for Improving Local Content”.

She delivered the paper at the maiden edition of Emerging Technologies Research and ICT Innovation Forum (South West Region) organized by the leading sectorial regulator in Nigeria – the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) held at the University of Lagos (UniLag) recently.

Opeke reminded the gathering comprised of the academia, industry players, media, amongst others that globally these disruptions have produced great wealth, disrupted major companies and continue to drive productivity and create new opportunities for many.

Of course, through disruptions and innovations, the world has witnessed trillion $ companies – Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent etc.

In Nigeria, the tech ecosystem is emerging and has experienced significant growth in recent years.

The MainOne CEO stoke the truth to the authorities when she said, “It (Nigeria) remains the largest in the African tech ecosystem alongside South Africa and Kenya but is still considered underdeveloped when compared to more established global tech ecosystems in USA, China, India and UK and when rated per capita against each of those countries with population of 50 Million+, then we realize our size does not imply we are doing much better”.

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This report by Vc4a captured it well. That said, Africa is still one of the fastest growing ecosystem in the world according to GSMA report in 2018 with over 442 active hubs on the continent and 5 countries (Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco) housing over 45% of these hubs.

TechX Innovation Hub in Enugu

Nigeria has 55 active hubs and recently added new hubs including Facebook NG_Hub; The Nest, and Eko Innovation hub.

But, Opeke argues, truly, it is not enough.

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Why?

Changing digital value chain:

The ecosystem needs supports than it is receiving presently, especially from the Government, for it to contribute more to economic growth, jobs and productivity: Wealth creation.

Secondly, future of work and global relevance must be considered because global digital value chains are changing.

“Relative GDP per capita for Nigeria declined against Advanced economies during the industrial age Nigeria vs.. Singapore, South Korea, Brazil, Canada etc and set to decline further unless we take rapid action. Hence poverty declining globally, but in relative terms, Nigeria becoming poorer.

“Agriculture without TECH cannot save us.

Agriculture in Nigeria

Farming in Nigeria.. Agriculture without technology will not help us

National Security:

“…Perhaps we are witnessing the first global Cyber war between Trump and China. Minor ones before – North Korea and Sony, China/Russia and US… but this is big. Any global tech company today can deny 1Billion people communications services by the push of a button”.

The Lead speaker further touched on some issues faced by the start-ups which she referred to as ‘Supporting Factors’.

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“Access to capital (We have fewer resources per person). To Invest and to BUY. Start-ups face difficulty of scaling and making decent returns to compete globally. More successful ones quickly go offshore … Andela, Flutterwave, Tizeti   etc.

“Lack of infrastructure is a challenge … electricity, transportation, broadband. Of course, broadband is for the Digital Age what Electricity was for the Industrial Age.

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“Government Support … Incentives, Grants, Direct investment, safe guards for small players and new entrants e.g. Amazon had no sales tax for many years due to government support

“Skills available talent pool, educational and research institutions play a crucial role in creating a tech ecosystem to support founders and investors in developing innovative ideas to drive growth and attract more players into the ecosystem.

“Many of the initial businesses were local adaptations of established models around the world. Today, founders are starting to tackle specific local issues, provide solutions and scale them to resolve similar challenges in the rest of Africa.

Digital Encode and YCreators 3

Digital Encode and YCreators teach kids digital skills

“A good example is the FinTech sector which has effectively developed local payment solutions and accounts for majority of the funding raised by the tech ecosystem. But we also have to be mindful of the threat they face of being wiped out by global players as the market becomes better defined and attractive to them”.

She disclosed why all and sundry should rally round the ecosystem; emphasizing that “the vibrancy of the ecosystem is already attracting global players like Facebook and Google who are investing in the local ecosystem and partnering with existing innovation hubs.

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NG_Hub

“Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg’s visit in 2017 and Andela’s US$ 24 million investment represents global recognition of the intrinsic possibilities and gives much-needed attention to Nigeria’s tech ecosystem’s potential”… to be continued tomorrow.

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