By Ayo Oyoze Baje
“Lagos remains in the tech global market and in the map of the global space as a destination of choice where investors, tech experts see as a place to be… It is the heartbeat and commercial nerve-centre of the country, therefore, we will continue to support investors and create an enabling environment for their businesses to flourish”. –Gov. Sanwo-Oluof Lagos State (Statement made at the launch of Mainone/MDXI new Data Centre)
When Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg paid a surprise visit to CcHUB, a local innovation centre and tech hub,jointly owned by BosunTijani and Femi Longe, located in Yaba, known as Nigeria’s Silicon Valley, CNN described the historic event— his first to sub-Saharan Africa, as “putting the country’s tech businesses firmly in the world’s spotlight.It was the day Silicon Valley came to Nigeria, and there was hardly any Nigerian with Internet access who didn’t know that”. It would be recalled that Zuckerberg said that: “This is my first trip to sub-Saharan Africa. I’ll be meeting with developers and entrepreneurs, and learning about the startup ecosystem in Nigeria. The energy here is amazing and I’m excited to learn as much as I can.”
At the CcHUB, he interacted with children at a summer coding camp and entrepreneurs who visited the centreto build and launch their apps. Tijani, one of the founders of the tech hub told CNN that: “By coming here first, he’s given a lot of hope to young people here,” The reason for his statement was not far-fetched because to succeed with start-ups in Nigeria is to survive against all odds, including weak infrastructure, epileptic power supply and pervasive lack of funding and investment.That was on August 30, 2016. It is both interestingly and inspiring therefore, that some six years later, the forward-looking Governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos state, who certainly knows his onions and well aware that the future is now, and that virtually every sector of our economy and social life is defined by the imperative of modern technology has taken the paradigm notches higher. Specifically, during the recent launch of Mainone/MDXI new Data Centre, a subsidiary of Equinox Technology which is a cable and communication services company, the governor reiterated the fact that the state is leading in technology start-upand in technology development as well as e-commerce in West Africa. He pledged that his administration would continue to support and design policies to help in creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive in Lagos State. As he rightly noted, the added values of job creation, knowledge and skills would be acquired by those employed in the facility. What more, they would be trained so that they could compete with their counterparts on a global level all over the world. Governor Sanwo-Olu disclosed that: “We are home to three Fintech Unicorns – Paystack, Flutterwave and Interswitch, among many other very successful, globally recognized Start-ups. We are also a leading global city in e-commerce and retail technology, transportation technology and education technology, according to the Global Startup Ecosystem Index.
“We are also putting our skin in the game. We have reached advanced stages of the rollout of 3,000km of terrestrial fibre across the State”. But that was only part of the achievements in the field of modern technology that he reeled out. He stated that Lagos state was developing a K.I.T.E Cluster/Campus in Yaba, Lagos, on 22,000 square meters of land, in partnership with the private sector. K stands for Knowledge, I for Innovation, T for Technology and E for Entrepreneurship. Then he added the clincher that: “We have just established a new University, the Lagos State University of Science and Technology (LASUTECH), focused on building capacity in science, technology, and innovation in Lagos State.” It was a moment of elation therefore, when he said that his administration is “very proud” of the Managing Director of Mainone/MDXI, Ms. FunkeOpeke and what she has achieved with MainOne over the last 12 years. On her part, Opeke explained that: “The facility will further help in boosting development especially in areas of data gathering and content creation. All telecommunications companies are connected to the facility, lots of major institutions are providing critical services all over West Africa with this facility,”
Notably, the governor added that:“Entrepreneurs like Ms. Opeke are solid proof of what Nigeria and Nigerians can achieve when we set our minds to it and pursue business dreams that are ambitious and world changing.”That was hitting the nail right on the head. And it is because, as at this day Nigeria remains the proud homeland of some of the world’s remarkable, trail-blazing inventors and innovators in the fertile fields ofmedicine,transportation, science and information technology. Efforts such as the public-private partnership catalyzed by Lagos state government will eventually produce more of the Philip Emeagwalis, the Silas Adekunles, Saheed Adepojus, Ndubuisi Ekekwes, Cyprian Emeka Uzohs, Yemi Adesokans and Brino Gilberts. Did you know, for instance, that our own Silas Adekunle, a Nigerian inventor and entrepreneur created the world’s first intelligent gaming robotand has become the highest-paid robotics engineer in the world after signing a new deal with Apple Inc in 2018? What about Philip Emeagwali? He designed the program and formula for the fastest computer on earth, the Connection Machine.As an epochal feat, his breakthroughs in computing helped lead to the development of the internet. The Nigerian-born genius,Saheed Adepoju is the inventor of the INYE-1 & 2, tablet computers designed for the African market while Seyi Oyesola is credited with the co-invention of CompactOR or the “Hospital in a Box”. It is a solar-powered life-saving operating room which can be transported to remote areas of Africa and set up within minutes.
As for Jelani Aliyu, he is globally acclaimed for designing General Motors’ leading auto brand, Chevrolet Volt. On his part, Ndubuisi Ekekwe developed microchips used in minimally invasive surgical robots. Oviemo is a Nigerian medical doctor who is credited with the invention of the Emergency Auto Transfusion System (EAT-SET), which is an effective, low-cost and affordable blood auto-transfusion mechanism that saves patients in developing countries. He has patented the invention in nine (9) countries. It would be recalled that our own Cyprian EmekaUzohbagged “ the Inventor of the Year Award” in 2006 from the New York Intellectual Property Association.Credits: He holds more than 126 United States issued patents and over 160 patents worldwide in semiconductor technology including U.S. Patent No. 6709562,“method of making electroplated interconnection structures on integrated circuit chips”, Similarly,YemiAdesokan was honored by the MIT in 2011 because of his innovative work.He was selected by expert judges of the Technology Review of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States of America for his discovery work on drug-resistant infections.
Brino Gilbert invented the Counter Collision Gadget (CCG), a device that has the capacity to prevent accidents on the road, air, sea and rail. The invention earned him many awards, including the Aerospace/Aeronautics category at the May 2003 edition of the Invention and New Product Exposition (INPEX) in the United States.
What is required is for the government to provide the enabling environment to identify and hone our talents. There should be the provision of stable electric power supply, adequate government funding of research institutes as it happens in the UK, US, India, Cuba and Rwanda. We need sound education delivery, without the incessant disruption of academic calendars. The capacity to articulate the inventions for the good of Nigerians will boost our economy.
Baje writes from Lagos