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Innovations hub in Nigeria brings out local developers

posted 19 Aug 2012, 14:06 by Mpelembe   [ updated 19 Aug 2012, 14:07 ]

An epic technology revolution is unfolding in Africa and the continent's most populous nation is not keen to be left behind. Innovations lab, Co-Creation is an open space where Nigerian developers are building technological solutions and social ventures that have drawn the attention of multinational companies looking to Africa for ideas to woo emerging markets.

This is where Nigeria's emerging tech and business talents come to exercise their ideas -- the Co-Creation hub is the country's first open lab designed to be a multi-functional space where developers can work together and access tools to succeed.
Here, developers, inventors, entrepreneurs and social change enthusiasts share space with investors and public agencies.

Established late last year, the Co-Creation hub is aimed at accelerating social technology ventures inspired in the oil-rich nation.

The founders say they wanted to be part of something that worked and focused on giving young people information and resources to find solutions.

"We set up this hub to be a go to place for people who have ideas to solve real problems in Nigeria to go to, for support and resources to convert their ideas into products and into ventures," Co-Creation hub co-founder, Femi Longe said.

The hub currently has about 800 members and organizations who are part of the tech community that utilises the space on a daily basis.

One of them is Muyiwa Omosa, CEO of 'The Me-Renaissance Group' a platform that provides news, live scores of the premiership football and movies. He used international developers to build his application in 2010 because software developers at the time, worked individually - in their homes, with little exposure to each other.

"A problem we sort of had was that we had no access to localised talent so there were no local developers to actually focus on the Blackberry platform to build the native API's (application programming interface) for us," he said.

Africa is the world's fastest-growing mobile phone market and the poorest continent will be home to 738 million handsets, or nearly three mobiles for every four of its people, by the end of this year, according to an industry survey done in 2011.

This access to mobiles is massively growing the access to internet as well.

Lelany Sommers, Business development manager for Blackberry in Africa says working with young developers is important to her company's future in Nigeria.

Co-creation has built networks with stakeholders from various tech backgrounds including Blackberry, Nokia, Samsung and other mobile companies, all seeking to woo Africa's potential billion user market.

Training sessions on start-ups and development, to help creatives find a market for their applications are regular at the hub. Grants are also given to a selected few to support outstanding software application ideas.

"Nigeria is a huge growth market for us and Blackberry is number one here and I think it's really really important to give our developers the tools and also the information that they need to develop for Blackberry 10 but not only Blackberry 10 but also existing devices," Sommers said.

Software developers, Zubair Abubakar and Bayo Pudduoube created a mobile application that provides access to the Nigerian Constitution through a mobile device.

The application, which has had over 300,000 downloads was widely used during protests against the removal of fuel subsidies earlier this year making information about rights protected in the constitution easily shared.

Due to the simple format employed in the application, the mobile version is also being used in schools.

"It's had a huge impact because we're coming from a background where people tend not to know their rights and human rights abuses are open and fragrant and people who abuse authority tend to get away with it fairly often so it's very very interesting to know that there is a document that secures or guarantees your right as a citizen of this country," Bayo said.

Another developer, Emotu Balogun, created a 'Tracklist' application that enables retailers to advertise their inventory and allows Nigerians to place orders using their phones.

Balogun says the tech revolution being experienced in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole will help grow industries that boost the economy and empower ordinary people to take part in growth.

"For me, it's a very good thing that there are, ok, people are showing up slowly slowly slowly -- it's still young in terms of software development in Nigeria but it's impressive because now a lot of young people are actually looking at it, 'okay I can do this kind of thing,' we are not looking at, I wish I were in California or before I can get this kind of solution, I have to go to India; it's those kind of, you know, it's very impressive," he said.

There are over 50 incubators and spaces like Co-Creation coming up across Africa, including Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda, Ghana and Madagascar.