The mention of “Silicon Valley” readily elicits synonyms like Technology, Innovation, new businesses; jobs and wealth creation not because these descriptive words were publicized as alternative names for the area but because Silicon Valley truly reflects these characteristics. Silicon Valley as a leading hub and startup ecosystem for high-tech innovation and development accounts for one-third of all of the venture capital investment in the United States. According to a study by Stanford University which is widely acclaimed for churning out entrepreneurs that continue to shape Silicon Valley and many of whom own businesses in the Bay Area, these entrepreneurs generate annual world revenues of almost $3 trillion. Within the State of California, an estimated 18,000 firms have been created by these entrepreneurs generating annual worldwide sales of almost $1.3 trillion and employing over 3 million people.
These impressive numbers have spurred many to find out why the Tech ‘Mecca’ as Silicon Valley is often referred to enjoys such overwhelming success. Experts have cited the presence of universities/research institutes with highly efficient technology transfer structures; the involvement and perseverance of extremely bright, energetic and curious individuals driven to change the world with innovative ideas; a climate that tolerates risk-taking and failure; collaborative efforts between Government and private sector organizations; the presence of Infrastructure, diversity of people, idea sharing/openness and solid business structures have all been named as factors.
Coming home, if this track-record is anything to go by, innovation hubs have the capability to replicate these success stories and impact immensely on economic growth in Nigeria. Innovation hubs are known for churning out high-impact and high-performing businesses that proffer solutions to societal problems. With ongoing efforts by the Nigerian Government to rapidly diversify to a non-oil based economy in the face of current economic challenges, supporting innovation hubs seems to be a tried and tested means to that end. As is widely known, small businesses are the biggest contributors to economic growth in any nation and innovation hubs have proven to be the birthing place for such high-performing businesses. Data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics shows that there are over 23 million Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria who employ a higher percentage of the labor force and contribute about 48.47% to the nation’s GDP. In 2013, about 59,741,211 people representing 84.02% of the total labor force were employed by MSMEs. If the current number of MSMEs increases by as little as 2% through new businesses incubated at Innovation hubs, the potential impact would be mind-blowing as we would witness MSMEs developing rapidly across sectors in Nigeria with innovative solutions; creating a powerful entrepreneurship movement.
Interestingly, Nigeria has witnessed a surge in the number of Innovation hubs as the idea continues to gain grounds in leaps and bounds. Research shows that Innovation hubs spread across Africa number up to 120 and continue to rise weekly with South-Africa, Ghana and Nigeria recording high numbers. Innovation hubs are peculiar because they provide co-shared work spaces where young people share ideas and develop homegrown solutions to problems with sustainable business models. This knowledge sharing process taking place in an atmosphere that encourages thinking outside of the box supports ideation which is critical to problem-solving. The result is the creation of high-performing and high-impact businesses with consequent impact on the economy particularly job creation and wealth creation.
Recognizing the enormous potential of innovation hubs, Fate Foundation, which has been a part of many MSME success stories in Nigeria over the past 16 years through its entrepreneurial training programs, launched the Institute for Venture Design (IVD) in 2011. In partnership with the Stanford Center for Design, USA, the IVD program was Nigeria’s first initiative that merged enterprise with innovation. For six (6) months, 15 fellows who were housed within the IVD facility located in Abeokuta, Ogun State went through rigorous business training to transform their businesses from ideas to prototypes.
Today, we would notably speak of innovation hubs like CcHub, Innovation hub, Smartcity hub, Wennovation hub and the likes. At the moment, there are about 27 Tech centers coordinated by the National Board of Technology Incubation (NBTI) and it appears that the numbers will keep increasing. Smartcityhub, an ongoing project powered by an Investment and Infrastructure Company in Lagos which is modeled after the Silicon Valley blueprint, is targeting the creation of 50,000 jobs within its first 5 years. Wennovation hub has been in existence less than 5 years but has supported over 120 entrepreneurs, incubated 8 high-impact businesses that currently employ over 50 people and plans to scale up by adding 1000 entrepreneurs and 50 businesses to its current portfolio. Cchub famed for producing BudgIT via its incubation program is widely regarded as the birthing place for many other successful businesses owned by young entrepreneurs such as Mamalet, Autobox, Grit etc. BudgIT, one of CcHub’s success stories is fast increasing its relevance within the public financial management space particularly with the way they simplify and present public sector data. So far, these positive trends signal great days ahead.
Innovation hubs have recorded much success with businesses because they provide the right environment to nurture young businesses by providing infrastructural support, business knowledge, mentoring and in some cases funding for young businesses. If this kind of conducive environment is replicated on a larger scale, we would witness significant increase in the number of viable Micro, Small and Medium Businesses with remarkable impact on the economy. Nigeria has a population of over 170 million people with a larger percentage of that number being young. Engaging young people and providing the support and resources required would yield phenomenal results particularly in the area of the development of homegrown innovative solutions to mitigate our unique challenges.
While the current economic upheaval being experienced in Nigeria and across the world may signal tough times, it also presents opportunities for us as a nation to transform the abundant resources we are naturally blessed with into economic wealth. One of such resources is our young population and supporting this segment of the society with creative avenues like innovation hubs would not only ensure we have a dynamic pool of young minds capable of solving problems but would also fuel and accelerate MSME growth in the process.
Stanford News, October 24, 2012: Study shows Stanford alumni create nearly $3 trillion in economic impact each year – http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/october/innovation-economic-impact-102412.html, Accessed July 15, 2015
Stanford News, October 24, 2012: Study shows Stanford alumni create nearly $3 trillion in economic impact each year – http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/october/innovation-economic-impact-102412.html, Accessed July 16, 2015
Brad Templeton, Forbes Tech July 11, 2012: The Real reason behind Silicon valley’s success – http://www.forbes.com/sites/singularity/2012/07/11/the-real-secret-behind-silicon-valleys-success/ Accessed July 16, 2015
Neil Koenig, BBC News, February 9, 2014: Next Silicon Valleys: How did California get it so right? – http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-26041341
The global reach of Silicon Valley, from talent to economic impact – https://globalconnections.hsbc.com/us/en/articles/global-reach-silicon-valley-talent-economic-impact Accessed July 15, 2015
Barry Jaruzelski, Scientific American, March 14, 2014: Why Silicon Valley’s success is so hard to replicate – http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-silicon-valleys-success-is-so-hard-to-replicate/ Accessed July 15, 2015
 Tim Kelly, The World Bank, April 30, 2014: Tech hubs across Africa: Which will be the legacy makers? – http://blogs.worldbank.org/ic4d/tech-hubs-across-africa-which-will-be-legacy-makers Accessed July 17, 2015
Tim Kelly, The World Bank, April 30, 2014: 100 tech hubs across Africa: where are the new innovation hotspots? – https://vc4africa.biz/blog/2014/05/02/100-tech-hubs-across-africa-where-are-the-new-innovation-hotspots/ Accessed July 17, 2015
Abiodun, May 5, 2014: How many tech hubs does Nigeria have? – http://www.tech360ng.com/many-tech-hubs-nigeria-list-will-give-idea/ Accessed July 17, 2015
TayoOlofinua, The Quramo Report, Jan-Mar, 2014: Where Innovation Meets Design – http://tkr.com.ng/article/where-innovation-meets-design—welcome-fate-institute-venture-design Accessed July 17, 2015
Fate Foundation archives
Abiodun, May 5, 2014: How many tech hubs does Nigeria have? – http://www.tech360ng.com/many-tech-hubs-nigeria-list-will-give-idea/ Accessed July 15, 2015
Tim Kelly, The World Bank, April 30, 2014: Tech hubs across Africa: Which will be the legacy makers? – http://blogs.worldbank.org/ic4d/tech-hubs-across-africa-which-will-be-legacy-makers Accessed July 15, 2015
Tech hubs across Africa: source – iHub Research/World bank/ Bongohive – https://s3.amazonaws.com/vc4africa/wblob/542197FD2D7132/23/3B9A2/ZG9IfhOHH4GHuLsklIiPpQ/Kelly_Techhubs_0.jpg Accessed July 15, 2015
Prince Osuagwu, Vanguard Online, January 14, 2015: Tech hub, Smart city to create 50, 000 jobs in Nigeria – http://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/01/tech-hub-smartcity-create-50000-jobs-nigeria/ Accessed July 15, 2015
Emma Okonji, Thisday Online, January 15, 2015: Nigeria: New Innovation hub to create 50, 000 direct jobs – http://allafrica.com/stories/201501150442.html Accessed July 15, 2015
Michael Oluwagbemi, Ashona Changemakers, Wennovation hub: The power of small; Entrepreneurs strengthening local economies – https://www.changemakers.com/powerofsmall/entries/wennovation-hub Accessed July 15, 2015