Technology is constantly reinforcing regional trends in business, investment, opportunities and modernisation, which accelerates globalisation.
Lagos is still the gold standard for tech entrepreneurship in Nigeria. However, Akure (Ondo state capital) is fast emerging as a new destination of choice for tech startups as well as larger enterprise companies.
Akure has two hubs, two co-working spaces and more than 20 startups which have sprung up in the last few years. These hubs and startups have consistently made efforts to bring technology to grassroot level.
In recent years, lot of people in the Lagos tech community have debated about the existence of a technology ecosystem in Nigeria.
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However, tech entrepreneurs in Akure claim to have a growing community which could metamorphose into a promising ecosystem in the coming years.
“In order to have a sustainable ecosystem, information sharing and collaboration are standard practice here,” says Opeyemi Olugbemiro, CEO of Zumalo, an Akure-based media startup focused on emerging cities across Africa, "Startups in the scene meet at least once every quarter to give updates and share stories and plan events for the quarter that will benefit the ecosystem. As a form of relaxation and to foster unity, startups make destination trips, party and play novelty matches”.
There are a few other things that actually stand out for Akure as a growing tech community.
Low cost of living
Akure boasts housing costs, utility expenses and tax burdens that are lower than most of the rest of the South-Western states in Nigeria. An office space in the state’s capital is around ₦100,000 to ₦150000 per annum.
Compare that to Lagos state, where housing prices are more than three times higher and hefty taxes and regulations challenge the ability of companies to compete on securing the best talent.
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Regional centre for tech education
Based in Ondo’s state capital, the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), is one of the best technology universities in Nigeria and a primary source of young tech professionals entering the job market. The university also serves as the tech talent pool in the state.
Planet NEST, a talent accelerator also helps to supply software developers in the state and outside the state.
For an ecosystem to thrive, the government must be in the loop. The Ondo state government is intent on supporting ICT and has created several initiatives to this end.
One of the innovation hubs, “Akure TechUp” was built by the state government in collaboration with the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) and two startups in the state.
Additionally, the government is looking to waive state tax on early stage startups as an incentive for growth.
Also the airport in the state has facilitated easy movement in and out of the state.
Silicon Valley started organically. It won because of its casual culture, freedom to experiment and collaborative environment. That's akin to where Akure is today.
While all these are in place, Akure still has a primary challenge of power and internet connectivity. This has posed a hurdle to the startups there, as they spend more on providing power for themselves. However, they claim to be speaking to an internet provider to improve the connectivity in the state.
When we consider that each innovation startup creates an additional five jobs in the local economy, it's no wonder that Akure continues to see net growth, even during the national recession.