In this week’s edition of ISN hubs featuring innovation centers in Nigeria, we visited Wootlab in the country’s capital city, Abuja
Chioma Okoro, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Wootlab shared her thoughts on how the Abuja-based Innovation Center supports the growth of entrepreneurs and building the digital capacity of African youth.
According to Chioma, hubs fosters innovation and entrepreneurship in their local communities by providing an enabling environment where a community of innovators and entrepreneurs can grow and meet others that they would not typically meet.
Hubs also serve as a central link for the start-up ecosystem, academia, tech companies, investors and private sector players.
On the state of innovation and entrepreneurship in Nigeria at large, a closer look at the Nigerian technology space in recent times shows remarkable developments. Jumia, an e-commerce site cofounded by two Harvard Business School graduates in 2012, is one of the first technology start-ups in the country.
Many others have emerged since then to solve problems in FinTech, Edutech, AgriTech and HealthTech. Their combined contribution has grown from less than one to over 10 percent of the GDP between 2001 and 2021.
They enabled Nigeria to become Africa’s 2019 premier investment destination, she added.
According to her, Nigeria’s technology, innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems can be improved by putting in place better policies, regulations, and financial availability to create more business-friendly investment laws.
Challenges and milestones
As stated by Chioma, access to talents, funding to scale impact projects, Taxes and fees levied on companies have been the biggest challenge for Wootlab.
However, amidst these challenges, Wootlab has executed human capacity development for digital entrepreneurship by providing access to free digital skills platforms to over 300,000 Nigerian youths.
Wootlab has successfully created Digital States (in partnership with The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and Microsoft).
The hub is also working with NITDA and Microsoft to provide a structured hybrid model and e-learning platform that provides basic/intermediate digital skills and job outsourcing sensitization to Nigerian youths.
The Program’s successes have also included the digital skills training implemented in Abia, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Borno, Ekiti, Katsina, Kaduna, Imo, Nasarawa, Niger, Oyo, Kano, Gombe, Lagos and Rivers States in 2021, with over 9000 beneficiaries trained virtually by master trainers and over 300,000 beneficiaries registered on the Microsoft Community Training (MCT) platform with access to free learning materials curated by Microsoft and Wootlab.
With support from Microsoft, Digital States has established a scale-up version targeted at 500,000 youths across all 36 states in Nigeria and the FCT.
On how Wootlab has supported more youth and women’s participation in technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, the COO mentioned that the hub has implemented this through youth-led and gender-based programs and initiatives implemented over the years which include:
Providing access to basic, intermediate, and advanced digital skills and entrepreneurship
Areas of training include but are not limited to: Web and Mobile development, Data Science, Development Operations, User Interface and Experience (UI/UX)
Access to infrastructure: internet, software solutions, power and workspace
Access to networks of skilled mentors and funding opportunities
Transitioning to employment: Job linkages, end-to-end freelancing coaching
Digital courses and services
Wootlab offers courses that include:
IT management of productivity tools
Understanding digital marketing for entrepreneurial skills
Basics of content creation and career development
While its services are:
Small and medium enterprises
The government can assist hubs by operating transparency in funding activities while ensuring better policies, which can enable hubs to grow and promote entrepreneurship.