The Co-Creation Hub Nigeria, a technology innovations center in Lagos, is working to start 30 profitable social tech ventures in the next two years. “The thinking behind CcHub is that the techies should not believe that they can just stay in a corner and create solutions for the market”, says Bosun Tijani, CEO of CcHub Nigeria. “You need to engage the market in the creation process and that is where co-creation comes into play.”
Bosun Tijani and his partner Femi Longe have successfully done work in social innovation while in the UK. Their experience led them to start implementing the idea of a Nigerian innovation center in late 2010. In September 2011, they launched CcHub Nigeria. Located in the Sabo-Yaba area of Lagos, and powered by a high-speed internet connection, the hub has been providing a shared working space for an emerging generation of young Nigerian technology entrepreneurs.
The CcHub undertakes a pre-incubation process to ensure ideas have a strong chance of succeeding after launching. “With our pre-incubation services we help members really fine-tune their ideas, understand their markets, help them with seed funding and connect them when they need bigger investments,” explains Bosun.
At present, the CcHub is supporting 12 ideas in the pre-incubation phase in health, education, governance, SME development and security. One of them is the ‘Hospital Manager,’ which Bosun says government agencies and hospitals can use to plan during emergencies. Hospital manager won a US$15.000 price during the 2011 Apps4Africa competition.
The Hub also organizes ‘boot-camps.’ Bosun likes to call these gatherings ‘living labs.’ Popular among them is its ‘Tech in’ series, a quarterly gathering of stakeholders that produces competing ideas that address a particular issue in the society. Bosun says: “Within that space they create projects, initiatives and solutions which most of the time has led to new ventures.”
‘Budgit’, an online platform that uses infographics to make the Nigerian government budget easier for citizens to read and understand, came out of the Hub’s first ‘Tech in’ series which focused on good governance. Budgit went live in September last year, posting 100,000 hits in its first month online.
Support and partnerships
Co-founder Femi Longe (picture on the right) tells VC4Africa that the CC-Hub has been able to attract seed funding of about 15,000 US dollars for six ideas since it started, and an extra 27,000 UK Pounds from a sponsor after it’s ‘Tech in’ governance event. Funding support has come from international donors like the Indigo Trust, Omidyar Network and the Schmidt Family Foundation.
Google, Nokia and Research in Motion (producers of Blackberry) are also major technological companies supporting the hub, investing in homegrown technology. According to Bosun, the companies believe this is an opportunity to begin to build local solutions that will work on their own platforms.
Members share experiences
Through the hub, Zubair Abubakar, a mobile app developer, was able to secure funding for the development of an app that allows one to read the Nigerian constitution on the phone. Last year, Zubair developed the Nigerian constitution app strictly for Blackberry phones and it recorded over 70,000 downloads. But now, the tech entrepreneur wants to create a version for lower-end phones.
For Ekene Udeze, a web developer, meeting an unprecedented number of core IT-professionals in the past the three months has been a great experience.
With over 400 registered members, Lanre Oyedotun says CC-Hub is already a complete hub of technology in Nigeria. Lanre Oyedotun, and his partner Adebola Adeola are planning to launch a mobile top-up platform with ‘airtime in six seconds or less’ as their tagline.
The Hub operates a 60kva generator, which ensures an uninterrupted power supply that is vital for a social enterprise in a country where constant electricity supply is still a huge challenge. “I strongly doubt if there is any hub that spends as much as we are spending on diesel, because most of them are in an environment where power is more reliable than what we have here,” says Femi.
For CcHub, this and other challenges can be surmounted with the creation of home grown technology, thus creating the desired future Nigerians and Africans want to see. As the CEO Bosun put’s it, “it’s all about creating, creating and creating.”
Creating solutions for pressing issues
Bosun continues: “We believe that there are more pressing issues that people outside of Nigeria may not understand. The technology developers locally have a clear understanding of these problem and they should focus on trying to create solutions for this. That, in our own opinion, is the way we believe we can create good use for technology. We want to go away from a community that depends on bringing products and services from abroad, to a community that believes that if something is wrong we can build a solution for it. So we are creating that mindset of people that are able to create alternative futures.”
At VC4Africa we are pleased to see new initiatives like this come online in Nigeria. This is critical infrastructure if we are to give entrepreneurs the support they need. We encourage everyone to visit the website of CcHub Nigeria and look forward to working together.