On May 22nd 2018, Facebook partnered the Co-creation Hub to launch NG_HUB in Lagos, Nigeria. The hub ordinarily should have been like any other existing hubs across the country, but it came with its own twist.
NG_HUB, as its promises, will spearhead the Facebook Nigeria Initiative scheme throughout the country. Perhaps the most enticing of the NG_HUB proposition is bringing together the Nigerian tech community, including developers and startups to enable them collaborate, learn and exchange ideas.
On the day of the NG_HUB launch, Facebook announced seven incubation centres (selected across each geopolitical region in Nigeria) who will work with NG_HUB as partners.
As partners, these other hubs are meant to run remote campuses and programmes, while NG_HUB would oversee their entire operations from its Lagos office.
It’s exactly four months and some days since the launch now and although activities appear to be going on just fine, there is a questionable atmosphere around how they are being carried out.
On the 31st of August 2018, Facebook held a Demo Day event at its office at Yaba to showcase startups that were shortlisted for its FbStart Accelerator.
Apparently, through an internal vetting process supervised by CcHUB, Facebook came to select sixteen startups out of the many applications it received.
At the Demo Day, a CcHUB spokesperson confirmed that, out of the sixteen startups selected, five were residents in Lagos, while the remaining eleven selections came from startups across the country.
At this point is where one would expect the partnership with the seven incubation centres to kick in. If anything, to help with regional administration of the programme.
But it appears this is somewhat not the case. Fews days to the Demo event, Techpoint spoke with one of the hub managers who claimed that they had not been engaged actively by NG_HUB in any capacity.
“Obviously they have a hub, so they can do these inaugurations without consulting other hubs. They hardly even reply their emails,” he told Techpoint.
Any truth to that would in fact have a negative impact on the whole Facebook Nigeria Initiative.
Techpoint then reached out to four other hubs individually for feedback. While all of them claim not to have anything to do with the ongoing FbStart Accelerator, two alluded to having a round table discussion with Facebook over exploring other initiatives in the offering (which seem more tailored to SMEs).
“Even that was just a one-time virtual conversation where we spoke about the ‘She Means Business’ Facebook initiative. Nothing happened,” said Daniel (not real name), a programmes manager at one of the hubs.
The conversation with Daniel turned out to be revealing, seeing that, for the first time in the whole investigation, it put the spotlight on the other Facebook initiatives.
The Facebook Nigeria Initiative is a list of many activities and programmes Facebook has in mind for Nigeria. In order to bring the plans to life, they made a pact with CcHUB and a few other marketing companies.
According to the CcHUB spokesperson, CcHUB was only in charge of administering the Fbstart Accelerator. The other programmes were handled by personnel enlisted directly by Facebook, even though both programmes were clearly designed to ride effectively on the back of the incubation partners.
Seeing how things have fared so far, one might conclude the whole Facebook Nigeria Initiative has had a certain underwhelming undertone to it.
But, on the bright side, there are reasons to be positive about the future outcomes.
“The Facebook Initiative scheme is a global thing. What I believe is that they are doing a pilot version in Nigeria to see how things can be improved,” Daniel adds.
Concerning the FbStart Accelerator, word from CcHUB still has it that teams selected from partner states would get access to the co-working spaces in these partner hubs and their communities.
The accelerator is a research and mentorship-driven 6-month programme, one month out of which has elapsed.
Hopefully, in the remaining months, a clearer collaboration plan will be forged with partner hubs to allow both the aim of the accelerator and other Facebook Nigeria Initiatives be actualised.