Silicon Valley, the global centre of technological innovation in California, United States, is universally known and acknowledged for the industry and companies that call it home. But it is also a place generally revered for its innovative mindset, entrepreneurial spirit, and a lifestyle founded on technologically-based wealth.
In Nigeria, the idea that birthed and nurtured the world-renowned Silicon Valley, one of the wealthiest regions in the world, is already having a convert. In a paradigm shift that is poised to engender a new Lagos where inhabitants derive livelihoods from the ‘new oil,’ Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has focused his energy on how to build a tech ecosystem that can assist the state unlock higher levels of prosperity.
In collaboration with Facebook, Google and other giants, Governor Sanwo-Olu said he believes that using the power and resources at the disposal of the government can help to propel the growth of technology infrastructure and the tech space where more startups can spring up – to the benefit of Lagosians in terms of more opportunities and greater prosperity. The tech ecosystem, which will be sited in Yaba, is being developed by the state government in collaboration with Facebook and Google.
Although the tour was part of efforts to deliver on his campaign promise under the T.H.E.M.E.S. agenda (education and technology), Governor Sanwo-Olu further unveiled his vision in this regard during a recent tour of two tech hubs, Venia Hub in Lekki and Impact Hub in Ikoyi, both in Lagos. Venia Hub is an ecosystem housing Flutterwave and 100 other tech start-up companies; while Impact Hub also has scores of startups operating in its ecosystem. This, in no small measure, further availed him the opportunity to meet scores of startups in the ecosystems for a roundtable discussion on expansion and funding opportunities and infrastructure development.
In its ambition to make Lagos the technological hub of Sub-Saharan Africa, the state government, in conjunction with internet giants, Google, Facebook and other tech giants, is to build the biggest tech campus in Lagos. He said the Yaba Technology Cluster is intended to be a free zone that would allow for growth and financing of innovative ideas. In the tour of the two major innovation and technology hubs in the state, Sanwo-Olu was accompanied by his cabinet members, including Commissioner for Science and Technology, Hakeem Fahm; Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, and Special Adviser on Innovation and Technology, Olatunbosun Alake.
According to him, the hub would be populated by entrepreneurs in tech industry and Fintech space, adding that the ecosystem would also offer free labs for the use of startups to take their innovations to from mere ideas to the next level. In a bid to ramp up its intervention in provision of technology infrastructure and expand the tech space to accommodate more startups, the state said it would embark on the construction of the biggest technology cluster in West Africa.
Knowledge, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship (KITE)
The Yaba Technology Cluster, called K.I.T.E (an acronym for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship), is primed to be a free zone that allows the growth of funding and financing for innovative ideas generated by entrepreneurs in the tech industry. The governor described technology as “the new oil” for Lagos, Africa’s largest megacity, to exponentially generate wealth and jobs for its young population, while also leveraging on it to raise the status of the state to attain fourth industrial revolution.
“Technology is the new oil and the basic element for the fourth industrial revolution globally. As a state with a massive population of young people, we need to play a major role in the development of technology, which is an enabler to leapfrog into rapid socio-economic growth. We take technology as an important deliverable in our government’s development agenda.
“For us to make lasting impact in the tech industry, we said to ourselves we needed to build the infrastructure to support the sector. We are building a tech campus on a 22,000 square meters land in Yaba, which we christen K. I.T. E. We are working with global brands in the tech space, such as Facebook and Google, to deliver this important technology hub.
“We are currently laying 3,000 kilometres metropolitan fibre optic cables across the state to drop reliable and fast internet connectivity in homes and workplaces. These are part of the infrastructure required as a backbone for the tech industry to flourish and empower our young people in the space to take their businesses and ideas to the level of stability,” Sanwo-Olu said.