In this edition of Innovation Support Network (ISN) hubs featuring innovation centers in Nigeria, we visited KodeHauz in Akwa Ibom State.
Founded in 2015 with the vision of “Bringing People and Information Technology Together”, KodeHauz is a team of Nigerian programmers with an interest in providing the best ICT solution as well as necessary systems and structures to help develop capacity and skills in information technology.
As stated on its website, KodeHauz believes that the Internet is a revolutionary and powerful medium, which if used skillfully can greatly enhance and increase existing capabilities, including marketing effectiveness, business reach, process, efficiency, and much more.
The innovation centre is set to create a flourishing ecosystem built around technology products with skilled individuals trained to provide world-class services.
We had a chat with Lawrence Akubue, the General Manager of the Eket-based hub, we learnt about how KodeHauz is stimulating growth and expansion of the technology ecosystem.
Innovation and entrepreneurship
On how hubs foster innovation and entrepreneurship in their local communities, Lawrence mentioned that, besides technology, KodeHauz hub once ran a business training in 2018 called “Sigma”, which produced 3 successful businesses that are still flourishing in the areas of agriculture, fashion and vocational education (music).
The innovation hub has offered services to develop products for local businesses and organizations like Isaac Afia Real Estate Agency; Booveri Hotel, CraftZone, The Nigerian Society of Engineers Eket branch, Royal Music House.
It also pioneered the implementation of Children’s Holiday Tech Camp within its locality (2017 – 2021) in which children (8 to 18yrs) on holiday, got to acquire computer programing skills using Scratch, App Inventor and Blockly, as well as web development (using HTML and CSS), and robotics (using Arduino).
In addition, KodeHauz has also launched Arduino Learning Kit for children with a manual that will guide the learner through twelve projects.
The hub has also launched an IoT community called IOTECH QUEST, where it is currently working with students from Akwa Ibom State University and Heritage Polytechnic to explore opportunities in the IoT space through a learning and mentorship arrangement.
KodeHauz current mantra is “Build the skill Economy and Attract the Industry” through which it can attract opportunities for local talents.
On the state of innovation and entrepreneurship in Nigeria, Lawrence said that Nigeria is gradually becoming a destination for tech talents in Africa, hence, remote opportunities are on the rise.
According to the General Manager, much of the opportunities still concentrate in Lagos, thus the situation needs to be changed.
“Fintech is definitely leading the way as tech hubs are increasing but indirectly competing against limited resources. Collaboration is still very much a problem because of existing latent competition. The biggest barrier to market entry still remains funding and government policies and in some cases, startups compete directly with government established regulatory framework.”, Lawrence stressed.
The General Manager added that collaboration and partnership are the keys for growth while adding that funding is also essential.
On women and girls participation in innovation and technology, Lawrence mentioned that 100% of its staff are youths.
According to him, out of the 3000 that signed up for KodeCamp more than are 90 % made up of youths who will eventually build its anticipated community for tech developers in Africa and more than 40% of the sign-ups we recorded are females.
Challenges and milestones
Lawrence highlighted the biggest challenges of KodeHauz as follows:
Location: The hub is in a remote location so people often desire to move to bigger and more developed cities to experience better lifestyles.
The hub according to him, struggles with local patronage due to the low level of purchase from the residents.
Unrealized potentials: A lot of promising tech talents succumb to the pressures of life and quest for survival which prevents them from completing the needed learning curve.
Other challenges identified by Lawrence include power supply and access to funding.
Despite all these challenges, the hub started the KodeCamp program in the last quarter of 2021 with over 3000 sign-ups from more than 15 countries according to the General Manager. “This could become a one-stop-shop for sourcing tech talents in Africa.”, he added
KodeCamp is a free virtual learning program that is designed to upskill interested youths from beginner through intermediate to advanced level in various tech areas.
The first edition featured web development, mobile app development; UI/UX (product design and development), Mobile app development.
The second cohort (Feb-March 2022) will expect more than 5000 sign-ups for both beginner and intermediate levels with a plan to progress to to the advanced phase later this year.
Additional tracks like the Internet of Things(IoT), Cloud computing, Digital Marketing, Computer-Aided design and Machine Learning would be considered.
Government and ISN’s role
The General Manager stated that the government can assist hubs by:
reducing capital flight and making sure that projects that could be delivered in Nigeria are not outsourced
ensuring that policies do not stifle the growth of startups.
actively funding the activities in the various hubs across the nation by giving hubs contracts to execute as this ensure a proper exchange of value.
On the role of ISN, Lawrence mentioned that the network has been important in terms of networking with the key stakeholders in the tech industry.
“Sharing of information about available opportunities is one important role ISN plays in our journey.”, he concluded.