Home to no fewer than 425 startups, the city of Lagos, Nigeria, has become well known over the past decades as one of the largest hubs for innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa. But during this time, one state in particular has emerged as a hotbed of youth innovation.
Located in the southwestern part of the country, and better known for its lush vegetation, rolling hills and waterfalls – Ekiti State is on the fast-track to becoming one of the largest homes for youth innovators in Nigeria.
Here, young people are harnessing the power of technology to solve some of the region’s most pressing challenges and create new economic opportunities for its people.
One such youth innovator is Adetunji Abayomi Adeolu. Born and raised in Ado-Ekiti, Abayomi is a Co-Founder of the Rice Inventory Storage & Exchange (or RISE for short).
This is a commodity storage and inventory management system that is making it easier and more profitable for small-scale rice farmers and processors to trade.
Abayomi and his Co-Founder, Bayo Ayodele, got the idea after working in the region’s rice trade and processing industry.
Here, they found that – due to the seasonal nature of rice farming and fluctuations in supply and demand – small-scale farmers often struggled to sell their produce at favourable prices, let alone throughout the entire year.
Without supply, rice processors were then unable to manufacture rice products to be sold in local stores. So together, Abayomi and Ayodele set about finding a solution.
After several weeks of research and discussion, the pair came up with the idea for RISE and set about turning it into reality.
This eventually saw the team enter the Global Alliance Africa ‘youth innovation support programme’, where they were given business development training and taught how to pitch their idea to investors.
With the aim of making the rice supply and value chain more financially sustainable, Abayomi is now working to scale the business and expand it to other parts of Nigeria.
And despite the challenges, believes that youth innovations like his can play a major role in opening up opportunities for his community.
Another young innovator who is making waves in Ekiti State is 27-year-old, Emmanuel Folorunso – the Creative Director behind TechHead Nigeria.
A first for the region, TechHead Nigeria is using artificial intelligence (AI) to build and convert existing households into ‘smart homes’.
The idea first came to Folorunso after he had finished studying towards a university degree in mechatronics.
Uninspired by the jobs on offer, he enrolled in an AI programme at the University of Texas in Austin, where he became engrossed in how the technology was being used to revolutionise industries across the globe.
Folorunso founded TechHead Nigeria with the aim of translating the benefits of technology into homes, to make life easier for everyday people.
As he sees it, AI holds the power to bring endless possibilities – from automated entertainment to machine learning culinary experiences in the comfort of your own kitchen.
But while the technology may be advancing at breakneck speeds, Folorunso notes that adoption of AI for home-use has been slower than anticipated.
As such, he is now directing his efforts towards generating funding for his idea – and move which also led him to Global Alliance Africa and the ‘youth innovation support programme’.
Having received his training, Folorunsho is confident that his pitching abilities will land him an investment in the months to come.
Young people are making moves in Ekiti State’s health sector too, with The Health City setting its sights on ensuring that all citizens have access to accurate information to support their mental and physical well-being.
Co-founded by Olatunbosun Mobolaji, the young startup is on a mission to build a community of young people, where preventable diseases are treated before they become serious health risks.
Mobolaji was inspired to start The Health City after learning that two out of every five young Nigerians do not have access to accurate information around their wellbeing, specifically in the areas of sexual and reproductive health.
In fact, from the research he and his team conducted, they later learned that more than 70% of young people tend to take care of their own sexual health-related issues without consulting professional advice.
As Mobolaji explains, this is because young Nigerians tend to avoid deeply personal conversations of this nature.
In response, The Health City team developed a sexual health chatbot to provide anonymous advice, first to Ekiti’s youth and now available to young people globally.
As it turns out, the solution proved so popular, the team launched a virtual consultation and referrals for physical services, among others, in February.
This led Mobolaji to the ‘youth innovation support programme’ by Global Alliance Africa. Here, he gained valuable insights into how to grow various aspects of the business, as well as learning how to pitch his idea to potential investors.
The success of innovators like Adetunji Abayomi, Emmanuel Folorunsho, and Oluwatunbosun Mobolaji is a testament to the power of youth innovation in driving change and development in Ekiti State.
Now, it is up to the ecosystem and the communities they serve to support their growth, to ensure that innovation and technology can make an even bigger impact on the region in the years to come.
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