Photograph — AB2020

Early-stage startups and social entrepreneurs with solutions that can help shape the Lagos of the future have been invited to participate in the first-ever Lagos Uban Innovative Challenge with $10,000 in view. Put together by Utopian conjunction with Future Africa, Business Insider, Skoll Foundation, the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation, Lagos Innovates and Rain Tree, the challenge seeks to financially empower startups with ideas that can help solve critical urban issues in Lagos, in areas such as energy, food and water, gov-tech, mobility, infrastructure, and public health and safety.  

According to a statement by Emmanuel Adegboye, managing partner of Utopia Lagos, the company is very pleased to be supporting the entrepreneurs putting in the work now to build the future Africa deserves while placing the continent on the path to a new model of urban growth. He further added that “shaping Lagos’s urban future will require innovative approaches and collaboration between government, citizens, innovators and corporates.”

Some of the major challenges that directly limit the growth of the Nigerian tech ecosystem include lack of finance, poor infrastructure, insecurity, lack of trust by security agents among many others. In comparison to the country’s worth, the Nigerian government have not done enough in recent years to support the growth of technology in the country. There are no concrete systems put in place to encourage and empower tech startups with further skill sets that could help them compete favourably on the global stage. 

In August 2019, a 9-year -old tech genius, Basil Okpara Jr, was discovered somewhere in Lagos. As of then, he has invested 30 games with his parent’s laptop. According to Okpara, he learnt to build games at a boot camp and currently builds whenever he is bored. Similarly, 25-year-old Jerry Isaac Mallo in December 2019 manufactured Nigeria’s first carbon fibre-sports-car plus a ventilator invention in March 2020 to aid the fight of the coronavirus. He called on the federal government for support with access to raw materials and funds to improve on his inventions but that was how far it could get. Nothing more is known about what the government is doing to support these geniuses. 

The latest brain drain in Nigeria is happening in its tech industry. Many Nigerian tech developers are beginning to migrate to countries like Canada in search of a better quality of life and incomes because the country’s system is not lucrative enough for them.

As of 2019, machinery including computers cost Nigeria $9 billion of its import, taking the largest import slot by 18.9 percent. The Nigerian government needs to take proactive steps to make the tech space truly conducive for its tech innovators. Infrastructures like constant power supply, affordable internet services and access to raw materials should be among its top priorities. If not considered, the country would keep spending more on the importation of technology while losing its prospective tech geniuses to other countries. 

Utopia is the world’s first urban innovation group that centres solely on using innovation to transform emerging cities and their slums. The company aims to support startups with solutions that can help solve critical urban issues in Lagos. Winners in the competition would be given access to a virtual urban accelerator, over $10,000 worth of resources, and access to a support network from the challenge partners.

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