Nigeria Rising: Inside Africa’s Cradle of Innovation

Setting the Stage

A rapidly increasing youth population and the government's investment in technology and infrastructure improvements have set the stage for Nigeria to become the nucleus of innovation. In fact, major tech companies including IBM have already invested in its booming startup scene. In the first installment of Meet the Innovators, we reveal the power and influence of Nigeria’s young entrepreneurs. Learn more >

2050
Nigerian population expected to exceed the U.S.

63.1%
of population is
under 25

63.8%
mobile penetration

56
new tech businesses
in 2013

See the full infographic >

The Innovators

Jonathan Lawoyin, Director of Digital Marketing at Ready Set Rocket, traveled to Nigeria for exclusive interviews and a behind-the-scenes look at the industry. Meet the trailblazers now.

Meet The Innovators

The Story

Nigeria Rising

Jonathan Lawoyin - The Thought Leader >

At 170 million people including a growing middle class and a giant youth market, Nigeria contains Africa’s largest population. That means half of the population is younger than 20 years old, tech-savvy and eager to adopt the latest tools as they become available.

With such a large number of college-age youth, it’s no wonder Nigeria’s own colleges are churning out record numbers of graduates looking for jobs in the burgeoning tech sector. At the same time, many Nigerians who traveled abroad for higher education are returning home and founding startups designed to help their country overcome infrastructure deficiencies and other obstacles through innovation and technology.

An example: Tayo Oviosu, founder and CEO of Pagatech. Before returning to Nigeria, Oviosu attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA and earned his MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business in Stanford, CA. Bringing more than 12 years of technical and business experience to Pagatech, Oviosu previously led numerous acquisitions and private investment opportunities in several technology sectors.

Utilizing this experience, Oviosu launched Pagatech to offer consumers innovative financial services like Paga, a direct-to-consumer mobile payments service. Utilizing this service, even the most basic SMS-enabled phone can send and receive cash, pay bills and retailers and more.

E-commerce is one of Nigeria’s fastest-growing fields spurred by the federal government’s heavy investment in e-payment and cash-on-delivery systems. But poor transportation and other logistical issues pose a barrier in fulfilling online and mobile orders.

Luckily, a slew of other entrepreneurs have moved in to tackle the country’s infrastructure problems. Smart, young Nigerians are developing cool solutions that make a difference in their country — especially in underserved rural areas.

Case in point: Bilikiss Adbeyi. After graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA and working for IBM, she returned to Nigeria to found WeCyclers, an incentive-based recycling program that rewards low-income communities for cleaning up their neighborhoods.

Both Oviosu and Adbeyi are based in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city and neighbor to Yaba — one of the country’s growing number of “innovation clusters.” Yaba is home of the Yaba College of Technology and a number of new tech incubators.

That being said, Nigeria’s democratic government, which replaced a military dictatorship 15 years ago, is investing heavily in these incubators while encouraging tech entrepreneurship and innovation. The more tech jobs the government can help create, the better it can keep up with its exploding mass of educated youth.

Nigeria is already a trendsetter for the rest of western Africa. Now, as its newly spawned home-grown tech entrepreneurs unite with returning Nigerian innovators from abroad, don’t be surprised to see this sleeping giant emerge as the worldwide leader in solving infrastructure problems for rural populations through passion, technology, innovation and design.

Introducing Our Meet the Innovators Series

Ready Set Rocket is a digital agency that bridges cutting-edge creative thinking, technological expertise, data analysis and impeccable design execution, leveraging all communication and interaction channels to transform human behavior into consumer action for brands.

In this capacity, Ready Set Rocket advises some of the world's leading brands and corporations on forward-thinking innovations within their industry.

By showcasing innovation and emerging technology in burgeoning locations such as Nigeria, this video series explores different areas of life that can contribute to the health and future improvements of cities and people around the world.

“We are pleased to partner with Jonathan and sponsor a series focused on innovation in his home country of Nigeria,” said Aaron Harvey, RSR Co-founder and Partner. “This week we unveiled our brand direction, centered around our belief that innovation is only meaningful if it is based on a deep understanding of people’s needs and desires. When we bring the two together — people and innovation — we create innovation that people truly want. This is what sets us apart and makes us different.”

Sources: The Guardian, punchng.com, eshekels.com, ventureburn.com, humanipo.com, spyghana.com, businessdayonline.com, cenbank.org