In this week’s edition of ISN hubs featuring innovation hubs, we visited South-south Nigeria, where we met Asieri Odusi, the Manager of Bayelsa Tech Hub located in Yenagoa.
Asieri explained how the Yenagoa based tech hub is leading the innovation space in the southern part of Nigeria.
Established in November 2019 as a CSR project of the Bank of Industry, the innovative tech hub exists as the go-to establishment for tech innovations to support young people and SMEs in Bayelsa State, while leveraging technology to grow sustainable businesses and career paths.
Through its programs and Initiatives, the Hub exists to support the growth of young people, indigenous start-ups, up and coming tech entrepreneurs, SMEs, local tech communities and other stakeholders.
The Bayelsa Tech Hub is positioned for the future to be a recognized centre for the advancement of Technology and enterprise development.
For this purpose, the Facility houses a laboratory for Robotics, Drone technology, Artificial intelligence, IOT and Machine learning.
It also provides Co-work Spaces, Incubation, as well as, technology and enterprise training.
This is to enhance our mission towards building a better community where tomorrow’s leaders can start using technology to develop local solutions with real-time application to addressing today’s key challenges.
Innovation and entrepreneurship
Asieri explained that the establishment of tech hubs plays a pivotal role in spurring technology and enterprise development, as the various hub programs and services are tailored at supporting various target groups.
“For instance, the provision of in-demand tech training help to equip young people with skills to start a Tech Career and become self-reliance.
The provision of co-work spaces fosters the establishment of techpreneurs and start-ups, and the incubation programs are leverages to birth new ideas and help businesses scale.”
On the state of innovation and entrepreneurship in Bayelsa, Asieri explained that the tech and enterprise ecosystem in the South-south state is gradually taking shape as lots of individuals are starting to birth new initiatives and businesses, and seeking ways to harness the power of technology to drive the business process.
According to him, this narrative wasn’t the same as of some 3 years back.
Improving the state of Nigeria’s technology, innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems, Asieri recommended that Human Capital Development is a key pillar for improving the ecosystem.
“There has to be deliberate support across all boards. Government, Non profits, Private Organizations and other stakeholders need to support initiatives that builds talents who in-turn contributes meaningfully to improving the quality of the Ecosystem. The CBN’s Creative Industry Financing Initiative is one of such that needs to be increased.”
Challenges and milestone
Asieri mentioned that his present role as Bayelsa Tech Hub Manager is in itself a challenging task.
On resumption as a task manager he was saddled with achieving some KPIs which appeared a daunting task to him at that point, however, he took up the challenge.
Upon completion of his implementation plan, COVID -19 happened.
“We had little financial resources to drive our programs, activities and operations, and it appeared it was going to be the end of our existence.
What I did to salvage the situation was to leverage my existing brand and marketing skills to attract social capital, and this greatly helped to put our operations and my KPIs back on track.
What I learnt from this experience and apply to date, is that with or without financial resources, you can hit great milestones.”
In this, the South-south tech hub has succeeded in creating the hub’s annual strategy plan, organizing tech and enterprise meetups, events and hackathons.
This according to the manager has attracted credible partners to the hub in Organizing and sponsoring programs.
This has also helped in creating a network of mentors to support businesses within the hub and also creating a network of investors, venture capitalists and sponsors to invest in start-ups in the hub’s incubation program.
According to the manager, the hub has reached over 5000 young people and SMEs through various training, intervention programs and events.
“So far, over 500 young people have been equipped with in demand tech skills, over 200 SMEs have gotten training support to improve their businesses and over 4000 people have been introduced to the opportunities in technology via social media engagements.”
In all these, Asieri didn’t hold back his excitement as he shares the hub’s in-house training programs.
“Coming from a narrative where young people are known for militancy, our in-house training program is breeding the next generation of tech Champions.”
The manager said that the Bayelsa tech hub so far has introduced over 500 young people in graphic design, cybersecurity, digital marketing, computer basics, computer programming, embedded systems/robotics and other in-demand tech skills.
On supporting women’s participation in tech, Bayelsa tech hub training as so far targeted young people while equipping them with the necessary skill-set to birth innovative solutions and tech startups.
“So far we have introduced over 500 youth to Tech. We also recently launched the Astute Women Community; a community of Women”
Government and ISN’s role
On the role of the government in assisting hubs, Asieri commented that they can assist through inclusive policy statements that empower hubs to be implementing partners for government innovations and technology training.
Another way according to him is supporting Hubs initiatives that aim to birth more startups and improve digital literacy.
On the part of ISN, the manager mentioned that through ISN’s email newsletter, the Bayelsa tech hub has been kept informed about the happenings in the tech ecosystem globally.
“This has enabled us to share opportunities to the community we serve and also participate ourselves.”