On the 23rd of June, 2017, founders of different tech start-ups disrupting the different sectors of the Nigerian economy gathered at the Co-Creation Hub (CCHub) to review the future of Yaba technology cluster.
The founders of tech companies such as CCHub, Hotels.ng, Printivo, JobsinNigeria, Leadspace, Paradigm Initiative and many others intend to release a Yaba Open Manifesto that seeks to capture the vision and intent for the Yaba technology cluster.
At the town hall meeting in June, Bosun Tijani, CEO of CCHub said the manifesto was a declaration that clearly states who the founders were and what they “feel” is important for them to move the cluster to the next level.
According to Tijani, what makes Yaba an ideal location for a real cluster include over 60 primary secondary schools, three higher institution campuses and hoards of research centers in YABA.
It should be noted that the foundation for a thriving Yaba technology cluster often referred to as ‘Yabacon Valley was laid back in 2011 when Wennovation Hub in partnership with African Leadership Forum started incubating start-ups. However, it was not until 2012 when the Co-Creation came on stream did the area opened up as a viable tech ecosystem.
Bosun Tijani at the time started selling the vision that a new and emerging technology industry required a strong root to allow it attract resources and build strength.
The establishment of CCHub brought new investments, funding and technical support from organisations from outside the country. It also led to new collaborations to drive technological development in Nigeria. For instance, CCHub partnered with MainOne, Omidyar Network, Indigo Trust and the Lagos State Government to provide infrastructure in the area.
Not long after, new tech companies that proposed to disrupt different traditional industries were established and some relocated to Yaba. The new companies include Konga, Paga, Hotels.ng, Privateproperty, Passion Incubator, Printivo, Buyology etc.
Mark Essien, founder of Hotels.ng who moved his company from Anthony area of Lagos to Yaba was to corroborate Tijani’s view in an interview “So it is important for technology businesses to cluster together, so that there will always be a free exchange of information and ideas between them.”
The Yaba technology cluster has seen some remarkable amount of good news. The one that will continue to buzz for years to come is the visit of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to the cluster. That singular feat brought it more recognition from around the world. Since then it has played host to notable investors from Silicon Valley, Venture Capitalists firms, angel investors and international organisations. Start-ups within the cluster have also secured notable funds from different investors while some have been recognized as creating global value.
However, the cluster has also faced its fair share of challenges. Some of the founders alluded to this at the recent town-hall meeting at CCHub. For example, it was generally agreed that currently securing funding was becoming difficult for many tech start-ups which has forced some of them to give up.
The meeting identified seven different objectives for the manifesto. Among the objectives are culture, funding, talent, infrastructure, policy, smart city, research and development.
To make Yaba the epicentre of technology in Nigeria will come with some stumbling blocks. To be sure, the slow pace of funding into the Yaba technology cluster recently led some critics to brand it a failure.
But in a May 2017 LinkedIn post Bosun Tijani made efforts to debunk the assertion, saying that the quest for result and change should not lead to destructive criticism.
“Yaba needs further investment, strategic input and engagement; and a lack of it should not be mistaken for “failure””.
For him, space to build an integrated cluster is not the challenge. Yaba is surrounded by communities such as Onyigbo, Ebute Metta, Makoko, Sabo, Akoka, Abule Ijesha, Onike, Jibowu, and Iwaya among others. The population of the area is estimate at 300,000.
“It is the investment in real estate that needs to happen. This investment needs to be approached as a multi-stakeholder effort for it to be sustainable and achievable considering the uniqueness of Yaba,” Tijani said.
Discussion on the Yaba Open Manifesto has opened and members of the public are invited to share their views.