With 30+ sessions, 15 speakers, and 20 awards #StartupSouth6 focused on the theme: “Unlocking The Next 60 Million: 4IR, Gender Gaps and Human Capacity Development” which speaks to the need to develop South East Nigeria technology ecosystem to the benefit of the populace.
Welcoming participants to the two-day conference in Enugu, the State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, said that technology is the next disruption across the world hence the region must not play the second fiddle.
He said that the State Government is fully in support of technology developments especially innovations that will improve the living conditions of its citizens in the areas of education, finance, job creation, smart agriculture, amongst others.
Governor Ugwuanyi speaking through Chima Obieze, member of the Enugu State House Assembly, assured the audience of the State’s open-door policy in welcoming ideas and progressive discourse.
“…I wouldn’t say the government has failed young people but they have not done so much to support the youths in Nigeria and Africa in general with the exception of countries like Rwanda, Tanzania and Ghana. So, that is why I assure you of the continuous collaboration of this government with the aid of the SA to the Governor in Science and Technology proposing innovative solutions to the state”, he said.
#StartupSouth6 really sparked conversations involving the industry stakeholders in a bid to unlock the great tech potentials within the region.
The first day of the #StartUpSouth6 featured seven different panel sessions; all richly curated with exceptional panelists.
The conversations touched areas of Ecosystem Development through collaborations, Creative Enterprise for Creatives, Bridging the Funding Gap, Sustainable Health Financing, Engineering Innovation and Sustainable Startup Ecosystem.
The first Panel session with theme “Accelerating Innovation Ecosystem Development through Regional Collaboration” focused on government collaboration with the tech players within the region and featured Engineer Michael Orekyeh, chief operating officer of Anambra State Information and Communication Technology Agency (ANSICTA) and Ewah Eleri, executive director, International Centre for Energy, Environment & Development (ICEED) as panelists while Aruoture ‘Rotus’ Oddiri, News Anchor, moderated the session.
“For us to build a new digital economy in the region, we need to refocus to Education because that is our own future and oil” – Eleri opined.
Orekyeah re-echoed that there is need for intensive collaboration within the Southern region, “as when we do so we bring in the best brains and resources. At the sub-National level we can collaborate through government agencies amongst themselves, collaboration of government agencies between the startups/entrepreneurs and collaboration among hubs inter- State. We can only provide the right synergy when we all work together,” Orekyeah said.
On providing the right ecosystem to support the youths who are eagerly receptive to Tech, Ewah rightly noted that the region needs “to prioritize in development of our Human Resources in the South East. We need a deliberate development strategy to coordinate our youths”.
“Our demography is made up of people with skilled talents and the talents training need to be diversified to avoid a mono product of labour. This diversification of skill set means that we need to train an accountant as well as physicists as they all play different roles in the society,” he said.
The 1-hour panel session ended on the high note that the demography in the Southern region should work collaboratively and strategize better on how to integrate from cradle to cradle and leverage the digital economy for the good of the people.
Subsequent panel sessions began with a Startup Pitch followed by a session focused on ‘Funding for Startups’.
Then, another with focus on the creative entertainment industry and then the sustenance of Health Financing with an inclusion of Tech.
During the Startup Pitch five startups competed for the $30,000 Pre-seed equity from SSE Angel Network. They individually presented 30 minutes pitch about their companies and equally received tons of questions from the Funding Panelists/Judges.
The startups are:
- Food and Comfort and
The four-man panelist on Startup Funding and Bridging the Gap for Regional Development was moderated by Mr Chidubem Anawo, the manager of Enugu State Tech Hub and consisted of Teimo (Maria) Glover; Emeka Okoye, the director of Ecosystem Engagement with the SSE Angel Network and Arinze Chilo-Offiah, SA to the Governor of Enugu State on SME and Investments.
The Startup Pitch panelists unanimously agreed that there is indeed a funding gap in the region but Mr Emeka Okoye equally stated that the Startups should develop a high level of seriousness in structuring their system to be able to absorb huge Capitals.
He said while there is a funding gap, capacity gap and R&D gaps also exist in the region. On that note, Teimo (Maria) Glover noted that despite the challenges facing startups such as lacking the right skills to attract large investors, they need finance to be able to scale up and grow.
An interlude panel session on Creative Enterprise which featured veterans and budding entrepreneurs in the Creative Entertainment Industry reechoed the need to leverage on tech to create and monetize a synergy between the players.
The Health Panel concluded with a remarkable comment that “The health sector is very lucrative for the Tech folks as there is so much to monetize on. There is no need to wait on government bureaucracies to invest into tech ideas but rather private individuals and even the General Public” – Pharmacist Nkemjika Uwaezuoke
The first day #StartUpSouth6 conference ended with a merged panel session consisting of “A Driving Prosperity through Sustainable Startup Ecosystem, Engineering Innovation and 4IR & Future of Work Conversation of which Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu, president, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) and one of the panelists reaffirmed that “We need to recreate smaller versions of Silicon Valley down here in the South by providing an enabling tech ecosystem made up of talents, building products which can be valued beyond SouthEast and finding the right funding”
The Award part of StartupSouth6 began with the Innocent Chukwuma Award for Innovation. The award was set up by the organizers to immortalize the legend, Innocent Chukwuma.
“The Award is specially curated to recognize an individual with distinct and well deserving character – People who have spent a significant amount of their time improving the tech world in Nigeria, supporting startups; people who have had the passion to change the narrative.” – Dr Chichi Aniagolu-Okoye, regional director, West Africa at Ford Foundation
Mr Uche Aniche, the Convener, in his welcome speech outlined that being in Enugu was a homecoming for him, trailing back to his childhood memories of the city.
He noted that the #StartupSouth Conference which started in 2015 is aimed at bringing together founders, innovators and investors from across Nigeria and beyond to a city within the South-South and South-East Nigeria annually, to discuss technology, startup trends and challenges facing the growth of startups in the region.
He further reiterated that it is of great essence to bridge the gap between the region and “Lagos Tech” ecosystems in terms of having the right and adequate funding down in the South.
Aniche acknowledged the presence of highly placed individuals present, and virtually audience.
He also commended the Enugu State Government for the unrelenting support towards making #StartupSouth6 a success, especially as the first government to actively create an enabling environment to support #StartUpSouth movement.