The innovation space across Africa is evolving rapidly. And as a stakeholder, I would say that the growth of hubs and co-working spaces has played a key role in making these times truly exciting.
I had to write this piece at the 4th Afrilabs Annual Gathering in the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, which is significant because it simply is a pointer to the fact that even the AU now understands that for Africa to develop economically, it must innovate itself out of its myriad of problems.
Interestingly, just last week, people for the Innovation Support Network Hubs also converged on the city of Lagos for its first annual gathering. The event had over 250 participants from across the country in attendance.
There were panel discussions, masterclasses on relevant ecosystem issues, co-creation sessions, networking as well as the network’s first annual general meeting.
In the keynote address, the West African Director of Ford Foundation, Innocent Chukwuma, described hubs as critical to creation of jobs and national development.
He said, “The role of hubs in national development cannot be overemphasised. However, hubs need to understand their place and decide how to play. As hubs, you cannot keep forcing the marketing to accept what it does not need. There has to be a clear market fit; otherwise hubs will depend only on grants and that is not sustainable.”
This point is truly fundamental because from my experience, it is pretty tough trying to run a hub. Any hub that does not have a sustainability model in place may not survive in the long run.
Let me state that the need to help other hub owners rethink their models led to the creation of ISN Hubs which is gradually evolving into a formidable community of stakeholders, who care about the growth of innovation in the country.
The annual gathering provided participants with the tools and strategies required to sustain their hubs. In the words of the Chairman of ISN Hubs, Tomi Davies, “The journey to sustainable innovation hubs that will help our entrepreneurs build start-ups that create decent jobs for Nigerians has started in earnest. This first gathering of the Innovation Support Network Hubs in Lagos marks the beginning of that journey to global competitiveness.
“I am proud of the 75 founding hubs who made this happen and look forward to welcoming our new members. I would especially like to thank our sponsors, Ford Foundation and AVPA for their support and look forward to continuing to work with them.”
This sums up the key value from the event for me because we simply need to become a more innovative country, less dependent on natural resources, following the example of countries such as Norway and the United Arab Emirates.
I recently saw a tweet that read like, ‘Africa needs to create at least 1.5 million jobs monthly for the next 30 years to avert crisis’. I am not sure if this tweet is right or wrong but one thing I don’t need any expert to tell me is that there is fire on the mountain.
This is because Nigeria and the rest of Africa are simply not creating enough jobs.
The Federal government reported some months back that Nigeria’s unemployment rate was estimated to grow to about 33.5 percent by 2020. This, in my view, is an alarming figure that should — Finish Reading on the Punch