Itana (previously Talent City) has raised a $2 million pre-seed from several investors, including Future Africa, LocalGlobe, Amplo and Pronomos Capital.
The funding will help the startup raise Nigeria's ease-of-doing-business index, spur foreign direct investment (FDI), and increase employment.
Itana, founded by Luqman Edu, Iyin Aboyeji, and Coco Liu, is positioned to become Africa's first digital free zone.
Free zones are designated areas within a country where goods and services can be traded with unique tax and customs benefits. The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) and the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority (OGEFZA) manage Nigeria's 17 free zones.
These free zones are located throughout the country and provide several benefits to businesses, including tax incentives, duty-free imports, and streamlined regulatory processes.
Edu said Itana plans to create a virtual city in these free zones for companies in the service and digital industries while providing the same advantages.
The project's initial iteration is Itana Edge, a one-stop online shop akin to major global tech products. Foreign companies that do not have a physical presence in a Nigerian free zone can use it to gain access to benefits such as taxation, business visas, banking, capital repatriation, and supportive legislation after incorporating and operating there.
The Nigerian government, which grants business licences, collaborates with Itana to offer these services.
Itana intends to expand the number of services it offers for companies to operate remotely and, leveraging the anticipated success of its Lagos project, partner with other African governments to replicate physical and digital free zones in their markets.
Itana plans to go live in the first quarter of 2024 and will start its pilot in Nigeria with a few select businesses in the coming weeks.
These businesses will access Itana District, a 72,000 square metre "live-work-build" campus. It will host long-term residents and online community visitors for social events, co-working, and co-living. It will finish the first stage of its development by 2027.