EntrepreneurCountry Launches in Nigeria: The Next Innovation Frontier
In early July, I visited Nigeria for the first time, filled with excitement at the busy few days ahead – I was to deliver a keynote at the World Pension Summit in the capital city of Abuja and then launch EntrepreneurCountry Nigeria in the commercial nucleus, Lagos. I was also a little apprehensive given the generally unfavourable reports that one tends to hear about Nigeria.
However, once on ground, my apprehension dissipated. Sure, there are serious problems with which the country is grappling, but what struck me was the warmth, friendliness and openness of the people, the buzz and energy of the cities, the creativity and dynamism of the entrepreneurs and a sense that here, as in most of Africa, the possibilities were truly endless.
Working with my excellent local partner, Nkiru Asika, who also runs a creative industries focused social enterprise Enterprise Creative, we launched EntrepreneurCountry at an event in Lagos with about 100 entrepreneurs, full of ideas, experiences and talent equal to any I have come across anywhere in the world. Later, we held a high-level dinner of uber-entrepreneurs and corporate leaders hosted by the Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria Hon. Peter Carter. The guests included a variety of entrepreneurs and top CEO's such as such as Uzoma Dozie from Diamond Bank and Afam Edozie, CEO of Grow Africa.
Two panels on the day focused on both the funding, and entrepreneurship and innovation landscape in Nigeria. Panellists include Bankole Oluwafemi, Co-Founder of highly-regarded Nigerian tech blog TechCabal, and Victor Okigbo, Manager at IDEA Accelerator. The panel was moderated by award-winning journalist Tolu Ogunlesi. What really stood out to me was the calibre of the entrepreneurs and the abundance of knowledge that they all shared. They were all incredibly vocal about solving real business challenges such as financial inclusion, health care, education and utilising technonology as a major disruptor.
EntrepreneurCountry is global community of almost 140,000 high-growth SMEs, industry leaders and corporates spread across Europe, the Middle East and Africa . Our mission is to connect high-growth start-ups with large corporates to facilitate trade, partnerships, investments and acquisitions, with the goal of transforming existing industry with the digital revenues generated by start-ups. As Julie Meyer, EntrepreneurCountry Founder and author the book that articulates our philosophy – Welcome to entrepreneurcountry – would say, "we're taking the Palo Alto model global."
When we launched EntrepreneurCountry Global, our belief was (and still is) that the next digital game changer will be from the frontier market. Mpesa is a prime example, clearly demonstrating that there is an abundance of innovative talent in Africa. Kenya's Mpesa is the global superstar of mobile money, making huge profits for the company while also changing lives and changing the way business is done by allowing consumers and businesses to transfer funds and collect payments from the touch of a mobile phone. In most of Africa, PC use is far less widespread than mobile usage, so mobile money is an innovation that has immediate and important impact.
Nigeria is ready to produce the next Mpesa, as it is the continent's most populous nation and largest economy. It is primed for exponential growth in its digital economy, thanks to the hunger for innovation and the entrepreneurial fire burning in the veins of this largely youthful continent.
Africa has experienced a digital and mobile explosion over the past decade which has created enormous business opportunities, opened new markets, and challenged the status quo in different industries. The digital revolution is enabling entrepreneurs to get up and going faster, more cheaply and with greater reach. And there is a fast-growing cadre of African entrepreneurs who are applying digital technology in all sorts of interesting ways, from ecommerce to mobile money, from elearning to egovernance, online content to online classifieds, online gaming to online dating and almost anything under the sun.
At the same time, Africa's large traditional businesses – the corporate Goliaths – are trying to get to grips with this new terrain, trying to figure out how to engage with consumers, how to remain competitive and how to create value in this new converged world of digital, mobile and social media.
In Nigeria, major commercial banks, a sector not usually associated with innovation, are launching highly innovative digital solutions, including social banking allowing people to open and run accounts from Facebook, ecommerce platforms, online SME hubs and mobile apps offering customers a plethora of value-added services. There has also been massive investment in mobile financial services in recognition that this is the way forward in the world's fastest growing mobile market.
Many different constituents are excited about the possibilities of the African digital boom. They have good reason. According to Nigeria's Minister of Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson, for example, the Internet industry can contribute up to $300 billion to the GDP of Nigeria and other African countries by 2025. Companies such as online payment provider PayPal have put aside previous fears about online fraud, and recently announcing their entry into Nigeria and 10 other countries in the EMEA region.
In addition to the commercial potential of digital technologies, African social entrepreneurs are embracing digital tools to tackle the continent's big issues – water, unemployment, agriculture, governance and so forth. Examples from Nigeria include the company Budgit which promotes government transparency and empowers the citizenry by breaking down the Federal budget and other complex economic data into easily accessible infographics; or the mobile traffic application Gidi Traffic, which gives users up to date information to help navigate the horrendous Lagos traffic.
Nigeria, welcome to entrepreneurcountry.
The event was hugely successful at engaging important discussions on innovation and funding in particular. entrepreneurcountry is looking to host a follow up event tackling more of these important questions in October or November. If you are interested in being involved please contact our regional partner Nkiru, email@example.com