In this week’s edition of ISN featuring innovation hubs, we head to the Northern part of Nigeria, where we had a chat with Maryam Lawan, the Founder of Blue Sapphire Hub in one of the country’s biggest cities, the center of commerce, Kano.
Blue Sapphire Hub is the first-female owned innovation center in Northern Nigeria, providing capacity building on technical skills, and startup and entrepreneurs support.
The hub commenced operations in 2014 and has focused on developing sustainable solutions and building entrepreneurial communities for scalable impact.
“Our budding community is made up of innovators, entrepreneurs, freelancers and dare dreamers who leverage the power of tech and innovation to identify and solve the most pressing societal challenges.”, a statement from the hub website reads
Maryam explained that the goal of the Kano-based hub is to instill skills in people to build a robust community of innovators and sustainable solution providers that will drive technology and entrepreneurship.
“Innovation and Technology are at the heart of the work we do, we believe in breaking barriers, disrupting and challenging stereotypes in order to create positive change.
We provide a launchpad for Innovators and support young entrepreneurs to thrive.
We provide incubation programs, capacity building services, consultancy and product development for startups, government organizations, NGOs and companies respectively”
Innovation and entrepreneurship
On how hubs foster innovation and entrepreneurship in their local community, Maryam said that hubs are in the business of advocating mindset shift from the traditional business models to innovative approaches.
They do this by connecting entrepreneurs with like-minds for partnership and collaborations.
Also upskilling them with strategies and tips, tricks and trends to boost their enterprises.
The founder also shared her thoughts on the state of innovation and entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
“There is a drastic change and mindset shift towards innovative entrepreneurship due to the effect of programs and events organized by Hubs, NGOs and Government organizations.”
While also speaking on recommendations for improving Nigeria’s technology, innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems, Maryam suggested the following:
- Create awareness and ensure policies created by the federal government on the digital economy are also adopted in states and LGAs levels
- Support hubs to create talent pool on cutting edge technologies
- Create policies on taxations for early-stage startups and hubs
- Create more investment opportunities for local innovations
Challenges and milestones
The founder stated that Blue Sapphire Hub’s biggest challenge has been the case of multiple taxations by the 3tiers of government (local, state and federal).
However, in the midst of this, the hub has recorded some significant success. As stated by the founder, Blue Sapphire Hub has:
- Supported over 10,000 people with different skillsets in entrepreneurship and technological skills
- Trained over 5000 women in tech across the northern region
- Supported, coached and mentored over 15 technology-driven startups
- More than 4,000 beneficiaries from its tech program
- 20 women in tech beneficiaries
Government and ISN’s role
On how the government can assist Hubs in Nigeria, Maryam stressed the importance of engaging the government at the state level to understand the digital economy movement and support them to create policies around it.
She also stated that creating a seamless platform to understand the requirements for taxations and levies for each startup sector.
She then added that the government can also work with hubs in technology and entrepreneurship programs.
While also discussing the role of ISN, Maryam acknowledged that Blue Sapphire Hub has been able to network and connect with hubs across the country.
According to her, ISN serves as a resource pool to carry out projects and also a platform for learning opportunities
Women and youth participation in innovation and entrepreneurship
Maryam stated that Blue Sapphire Hub since its inception organized yearly programs like system trix, blue fest to enlighten people about tips, tricks and trends.
“We have events and programs like the young minds ideations, spark innovations workshop, all free events to support the drive of technology-driven entrepreneurship.
In our women in tech program we have moved with the team across 3 regions (Northwest, Northeast and Southwest) in Nigeria to train women in tech.”
Adding to this, Maryam told us that Blue Sapphire Hub hosts a program tagged ‘Women on Wednesday’ aimed at enlightening women existing and aspiring with technological and entrepreneurship skills to grow and boost their businesses.
“We have conducted needs assessment on all the region and taken into consideration all the peculiarities of our participants and tailored a curriculum that serves them better.
This made the program a successful one and the impact on the program beneficiaries is vividly clear as most of them have become national brands.”, she added
Blue Sapphire asides from providing startups support and capacity building, the hub also offers software development where technology-enabled solutions such as web, apps and software to individuals, and businesses.
Featured Image: Maryam Lawan, Founder of Blue Sapphire Hub
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