In this week’s edition of ISN featuring innovation hubs across Nigeria, Yola in Adamawa state was our next point of call. We met Mary Nguveren Igbazua, the Co-founder and Head of Innovation of North-East Humanitarian Innovation Hub (NEHIH).
Founded in 2018, the Northern-based innovation centre runs across Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe, Bauchi, Yobe and Borno.
NEHIH is a dynamic community of creative minds and game changers collaborating on innovative solutions to the challenges faced by communities in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria and the world as a whole.
The North-East region has been severely affected by the conflict, which exacerbated the pre-existing socio-economic developmental challenges in this region, however, despite this state of the region’s insurgency, the hub has managed to keep running its activities while creating impact in that period.
Explaining how hubs foster innovation and entrepreneurship in their local communities, Igbazua said that the concept of innovation hubs is increasingly being adopted by different sectors as a means to accelerate innovation.
“The contemporary business environment is characterized by an increasingly dynamic and competitive setting. At the North-East Humanitarian Innovation Hub (NEHIH), we encourage knowledge-sharing through our co-working spaces, within a short period of establishment, it became apparent that open collaboration and knowledge sharing among our resident tech-startups in open office spaces are commonly recurring thus fostering innovation in its purest form.”
While speaking on the state of innovation/ entrepreneurship in the North East, the Co-founder commented that the state is gradually emerging from the doldrums of the Insurgency that plagued the North-East region of the country.
“Adamawa state where the North-East Humanitarian Innovation Hub is located is an emerging economy, the state is majorly a salary-dependent state however the human resource is immense most especially with the pool of talent in the tech ecosystem.”
According to her, innovation is a new concept that is gradually being embraced in most day-to-day tasks. Much effort is needed to embrace the culture within the state.
On improving Nigeria’s technology, innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems, Igbazua recommended three solutions which included:
Creating incubators at universities to inspire student entrepreneurship and build a culture around it
Initiating vocational programs to provide digital literacy and technical skills
Creating pilot public school programs with a reformed curriculum and technology-enabled learning
Challenges and milestones
The Co-founder stated that the hub’s biggest challenge has been about poor infrastructure ranging from epileptic power supply to poor road networks.
However, the North East based innovation hub has recorded some milestones in the midst of the country’s insurgency which Igbazua stated as follows:
Launch of a 3D Printing Lab and Internship program
Creation and provision of 3d-Printed prosthetic limbs to several individuals including 9-year old Mohammed and DSP Adamu a service police officer amongst other beneficiaries
Organizing and Training over 6,000 women in North-East Nigeria in various ICT related courses free of charge
Winning the Lion prize at the Venice film festival 2019 for virtual reality documentary video of the year
According to the Co-founder, the impact made since its establishment is immense.
“The 3d-Lab has been able to train indigenes of the host state (Adamawa) in design, fabrication and fittings of the prosthetic limbs.
The story from the 3d-Lab has garnered the interest of the international media including Reuters International, CGTN, Channels TV and a host of others.”
Youth and women participation in technology
According to Igbazua, the North-East Humanitarian Innovation Hub currently runs a Women Code-Prenuer Programme (WCP).
In 2019, the hub trained 100 women in Various ICT-related courses including Website Design, Android App Creation, Networking as well as entrepreneurship and digital marketing.
“By 2020, with support from the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, we have been able to raise infrastructure to accommodate 6,000 women across the 6 states of North-East Nigeria.”, Igbazua added
Also in 2020, the North-East Humanitarian Innovation Hub in partnership with the European Union and British Council under the Managing Conflict in Nigeria Programme (MCN) has been able to train and empower over 200 Youth and Women groups in Adamawa state in areas of Women’s Rights, Innovation, and COVID-19 Awareness.
“One of our flagship outcomes included the launch of the SMART RR Mobile phone APP for reporting cases of Gender-Based Violence and Assault in areas that are void of internet connection by one of the hub’s tech startups.”
Government and ISN’s role
Speaking on how the government can assist hubs in Nigeria, Igbazua stated the one of the best roles for the Government is to support basic and early-stage research that stimulates the creation of new fields and new knowledge.
“Governments support innovation best by funding basic research and setting and enforcing the “rules of the game”—things like laws, regulations and property rights.”
Explaining further, the Co-founder said that the government should Include a network of delegates (entrepreneurs and other ecosystem stakeholders) in discussions about new policies and implementation plans
“Revise public procurement regulations to make them more welcoming for tech entrepreneurship”, she added
On ISN’s role, the Co-founder commented that ISN has played a key role in NEHIH’s journey over the years.
Being amongst the first founding hubs of ISN, NEHIH has consistently attended its various gatherings, unforgettable amongst which as the 2019 ISN gathering at Lagos.
“In line with ISN’s vision, they have been able to organize, foster collaboration, inspire and support Nigerian Hubs in building a diversified economy while promoting the technology, innovation and early-stage entrepreneurship ecosystem in Nigeria.
The ISN community has given us at NEHIH the access to collaborate with other hubs across the country to date.”
Featured Image: Mary Nguveren Igbazua, the Co-founder and Head of Innovation, North-East Humanitarian Innovation Hub (NEHIH)