News / Africa

Nigeria Online Start-ups See a Future 'Silicon Lagoon'

Nigerians browse the internet at a cybercafe in Lagos, Nigeria. (File)
Nigerians browse the internet at a cybercafe in Lagos, Nigeria. (File)
Nigeria may soon purge its reputation as a center for Internet criminals and gain fame as an innovator of online businesses and tech start-ups.

Since 2010, there have been more than 50 tech startups in the country.  Although still in their infancy, many of them have shown great promise attracting investment from financial heavyweights like Google and JP Morgan.

These young tech savvy entrepreneurs say they have been inspired by popular online platforms such as eBay, YouTube and Craigslist.  They say they are fashioning their enterprises for tech-savvy Nigerians seeking a break from traditional ways of doing things.

Jumia.com.ng provides online retail; Wakanow showcases travel deals; Ibakatv and Irokotv take movies and Afrobeat music online.

Others are uniquely created as solutions for local problems.  Pagatech offers mobile money transfers; Jobberman.com is a job search website; Co-Creation Hub Nigeria develops local software and mobile phone apps. CC-Hub, as it is also called, recently developed Wayopedia - a repository of scam keywords and phrases that intelligently identifies scam e-mail. They have also developed a mobile social quiz platform, based on the high school curriculum, designed to enhance learning through self-assessment and to fight the high rate of dropping out from high schools.

With 45 million Internet users and 100 million mobile phones, Tayo Oviosu, the CEO of Pagatech says the potential for growth is huge.

“I tell people who look at Africa, generally, the consumer opportunity of Africa is Nigeria. It is the largest market by far. I think the entire size of Kenya is [the size of] Lagos state," said Oviosu. "The engine of growth in any economy is really start-ups.”

Oviosu says Nigeria is in the same position as China and India were 15 years ago. He says, in another 15 years, Nigerian startups could grow into global conglomerates like Tata.

After only six months, one of the movies on Ibakatv, “Sexy Criminals”, a Nollywood flick about a female robbery gang, has attracted four million views.

Irokotv already has a million subscribers.

In just six months of business, Jumia.com.ng, a subsidiary of Rocket Internet, a Berlin-based incubator has already built a 12,000 square foot warehouse close to the Lagos airport. According to a website rating company, Alexa, it is the eighth most-visited local content website in Nigeria.

Ayodeji Adewunmi, CEO of Jobberman.com, says his job platform has 500,000 users and 4,000 registered companies on its portal.

Pagatech already has more than 300,000 users.

Lagos Angel Network, a consortium of 15 technology investors, is already talking of the creation of a Silicon Lagoon modeled after Silicon Valley in California.

But Femi Longe, Co-Founder at CC-Hub, says copying success stories elsewhere may not be the way to go in Nigeria.

“We’re very obsessed with cloning successful technology products from different parts of the world and trying to force them to work here. Until we get to a stage we start looking at what is the reality and the need here in Nigeria and then creating technology solutions that can address those needs and doing it such a way that we can capture a huge chunk of the Nigerian market, which is sizeable on its own, and then capturing maybe West Africa, then Africa, until then we wouldn’t be able to create solutions that can conquer the world," Longe. "You cannot create a clone here in Nigeria and expect it to be among the top-valued technology brands in the world. Until we can get to that stage where we can look inward and from there look outward, I think the whole idea of Silicon Lagoon is a joke.”

Perhaps the strongest sign of the viability of these startups is their ability to endear themselves to notable global investors, says Tayo Kehinde, the co-managing director of Jumia.com.ng.

“If you can get someone like JP Morgan to commit a significant amount to invest not just in Africa but in a Nigerian start-up, to me, that is to say Nigeria is open for business and in particular e-commerce in Nigeria is open for business and investment,” Kehinde.

Global investment bank, JP Morgan, has invested in Jumia.com.ng. Irokotv got $10 million from American and Swedish investors. Pagatech has a string of foreign investors and Google is partnering with Ibakatv and CC-Hub.

Although there is no clear policy thrust from government on how to support these tech startups, there are some signs that this might not be the case for long.

The Lagos state government launched the Innovation Advisory Council in 2011 to help promote innovations in the state. Nigeria’s government says it has provided $3.5 million to build two tech incubation centers in Lagos and Calabar.

Part of the reason that government involvement may be necessary is that doing business in Nigeria is very challenging. The World Bank ranks Nigeria at 131 out of 185 countries for the ease of doing business. This hostile business environment is even more suffocating for tech startups.

After years of global notoriety as a center for Internet fraud, Ayodeji Adewunmi says correcting the negative perception is the biggest challenge the tech startups in Nigeria grapple with.

There is also the challenge posed by decaying infrastructure. Tayo Kehinde says heavy traffic in places like Lagos severely hampers the delivery of items bought online.

Erratic power supply is also exerting huge financial pressure on startups. Bosun Tijani, Co-Founder at CC-Hub, says the company spends more than $2,000 a month to power its own generators.

Despite the obstacles, these young Nigerian tech entrepreneurs say they remain optimistic and still say a day is ahead when Nigeria will have its own Silicon Lagoon.

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid