The Ken Saro-Wiwa Innovation Hub
We are seeking financial support to continue this work and to expand the Hub’s programmes and training to reach a wider range of innovative start-ups, entrepreneurs and citizens in the Niger Delta. GBP£25,000 (NGN12.4m) would fund the Hub’s activities for around 3 months. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details on the Hub, and the financial support sought.
Ken Saro-Wiwa’s vision
The 10th of November, 2020, will mark 25 years since Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed by Nigeria’s last military dictatorship. Ken Saro-Wiwa was a Nigerian writer, television producer, and environmental activist who dedicated his life to non-violent action for civil, economic, and environmental rights. His legacy lives on in the Innovation Hub that was set up by the Ken Saro-Wiwa Foundation and SDN, in his honour. The Hub provides a safe space where young people from the Niger Delta can find support, resources, mentorship, and acquire useful livelihood skills to build their resilience and contribute to their community.
The Ken Saro-Wiwa Innovation Hub (the Hub) has become a prominent centre supporting high quality, tech-based livelihoods that connect women and young people in the Niger Delta to the global internet marketplace. The Hub was established by Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) and the Ken Saro-Wiwa Foundation in 2017 to support Ken Saro-Wiwa’s vision of fulfilling people’s right to a decent livelihood that does not destroy the environment. We urgently need new funding to continue the Hub activities as the need for this Hub in a resilient Niger Delta economy, providing pathways into tech-based livelihoods, has never been clearer than in the recent period of COVID-19 lock-down measures. Tech-based livelihoods can help respond to the current crisis, and contribute to economic recovery in the region.
The Niger Delta’s large oil and gas resources are a major source of revenue for Nigeria but have resulted in widespread environmental damage in the region. Furthermore, dependence on – and misuse of – these revenues has led to a lack of diversification and resilience in Nigeria’s economy, and the Niger Delta experiences some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. SDN runs programmes to create alternative livelihood opportunities for those living in the Niger Delta that does not cost their environment.
The Hub is based in the Ken Saro-Wiwa Foundation building in Port Harcourt City, Rivers State, and managed by SDN. The Hub has been providing stateof- the-art training for youth, including women, in tech and tech-related activities, with a view to bridging a technological gap in the region. Over the last two years, the Hub has supported a number of digital startup companies that aim to achieve various Global Goals in the region, various developer groups (including Google and Andela), and developed an enabling environment for young tech and business persons to meet, brainstorm, and share ideas on ways to solve or mitigate challenges facing technological development in Nigeria. Training sessions and workshops held at the Hub have been attended by over 3,000 participants.
Achievements so far
Supporting start-up businesses
Through the Hub, eight start-ups were ‘pre-incubated’ in partnership with Facebook and seven start-ups have been supported in an ‘incubation’ programme, receiving material support and mentorship. They have subsequently grown to employ a total of 25 young people (7 females, 18 males). These start-ups have pitched to investors and secured in-kind investments and technical support with PwC, Delta State Investment Agency and some private investors.
Over 3,500 (approximately 40% female) people have benefitted from at least one training or mentoring session in both Port Harcourt and Asaba. The sessions include: Business Development and Entrepreneurship, Legal Frameworks for Start-ups, Finance for Start-ups, Organisational Development and Policy Building, and App Development Life Cycles. Through various training modules in the Hub, 115 trainees were certified by Google and Andela for web and mobile design, with five beneficiaries subsequently employed by private companies.
The Hub has built partnerships with Facebook, ESET Nigeria, Social Media Week, NASA, and other community groups and organisations such as TechHer—the leading female tech organisation in Nigeria. The Hub collaborated with TechHer to implement the Hub’s female tech community programme.
In an exciting development, Facebook has entered into a strategic partnership with the Hub to grow and support the developer community in Port Harcourt, support start-ups to do more, generate more revenue, and improve the digital literacy level of community groups. In addition to its financial support, Facebook also gave the Hub technical assistance and access to a global network of tech hubs.
Since its inception, the Hub has supported thousands of young people and women to gain various digital skills through a diverse range of training, and, through its rigorous incubation programme, has supported the success of seven start-up companies in the region. These efforts have been pivotal in creating a thriving tech community in Port Harcourt City and providing employment opportunities for Hub participants.
It is an absolutely critical time in the Niger Delta to protect these successes and further promote more diverse livelihoods in the tech sector if the region is to reduce the persistent unemployment. The recent oil price drop has sharpened the focus on Nigeria’s dependency on the oil and gas industry, and the associated vulnerability this creates with little intervention from the government to diversify the economy, foster wider opportunities, and encourage innovation.
The faltering bedrock of the Niger Delta economy is a huge opportunity to build an economy that is more environmentally friendly, diversified, and geared towards creating jobs and skills fit for the future. The tech industry is thriving in Nigeria, which could contribute towards the recovery of Covid-19-related economic impacts in the Niger Delta, particularly improving the livelihood options for young people and women who experience the fewest opportunities. However, tech industry growth is currently concentrated in Lagos and Abuja, with limited private or public investment within the Niger Delta.
As part of the solution, the Ken Saro-Wiwa Foundation and SDN have worked together to establish the Ken Saro-Wiwa Innovation Hub in Port Harcourt City. It has an explicit focus on engaging young people (aged 15-35) and women living in the Niger Delta to lead the development of a sustainable tech industry in the region. The Hub is pivotal in efforts to revive the local economy, reducing barriers and supporting the development of a new livelihood opportunity with a global marketplace.
Our goal is for the Hub to become the catalyst of a thriving digital economy in Rivers State – and ultimately across the Niger Delta. We aim for the Hub to be a centre where thousands of women and young people every year are supported to get the skills they need to enter work, and where high-potential new businesses are provided with the technical and financial support for them to grow and succeed. We want the Hub to be part of a wider shift in the economy in the Niger Delta, towards the environmentally sustainable development of the region that supports decent and diverse economic opportunities for women and young people.
What we’re aiming for
In the next three years, the Hub aims to support 18 startups to develop viable businesses, to grow, and create new jobs in the digital economy, and provide valuable digital skills that will help at least 3,500 young people and women to improve their skills, secure gainful employment or/and improve their income. To achieve this, the project has four main areas of work:
- Development and delivery of a comprehensive ‘incubation’ programme for 18 start-up companies over three years, to grow into viable businesses that employ additional people. Each year, six startup businesses will be selected into our six-month startup incubation programme that will support entrepreneurs overcome challenges that are associated with running a startup by providing workspace, seed funding, mentoring and training and access to a network of successful businesses.
- Multi-level training curriculum for up to 3,500 women and young people over three years, to enter tech-based and digital livelihoods, applying their new skills to compete in the global digital marketplace, as well as solving local socio-economic issues.
- Delivery of a tailored programme of public events and networking opportunities to help startups and tech groups across the region build relationships with key industry influencers, develop new ideas and financial opportunities that could further the growth of their businesses, thus improving their business revenue.
- Provision of cutting-edge facilities and a communal computer lab, especially for beneficiaries from low-income households, who identify the lack of access to a laptop or/and high cost of internet subscription as a major barrier to their participation in tech.
Future partnership potential
Initial interest indicates the Hub will be able to form the following beneficial partnerships if it is supported to continue operating:
- Start-Up South: Startup South is an annual Startup Conference for Startup Founders, Investors and the general public in the South-South and South-East of Nigeria. It features Fireside chats with Successful Startup Founders, Policy Makers and Investors from across the world, Pitch Sessions and Networking. The goal of #StartupSouth is to encourage innovation, entrepreneurial solutions (with a tech bias) and spotlight start-up founders and teams operating in the eleven states of south-south and south-east geo-political regions of Nigeria.
- Ventures Platform Foundation: Ventures Platform Foundation, are catalysing innovation for under-served communities in Africa by building the capacity of African Entrepreneurs and Innovators leveraging technology to create sustainable solutions to the most urgent problems on the continent.
- IMISI 3D: IMISI is an Extended Reality (XR) creation lab focused on building the XR ecosystem in Nigeria, and beyond. They are dedicated to growing a community of African AR/VR creators, creating solutions using AR/VR, and providing educational and engagement experiences with AR/VR. They explore the huge potential in AR/VR as a tool for creating everyday solutions and intend to change the technology narrative so that in Nigeria we become creators and not just consumers of technology.
Who will benefit
- 18 start-up businesses will benefit from the Ken Jnr Award for Innovation through the provision of mentorship, training, office workspaces, seed grants and access to organisational network.
- Google Developer Community Groups will benefit from using the Hub’s facilities to meet up and discuss a wide range of technical topics, and learn new skills through hands-on workshops. This will include access to the following: scholarships for tech related skills, space for workshops and training sessions and networking opportunities, community resources, mentors and experts in their related fields.
- 3,500 women and young people will benefit from an explicit focus on them by the Hub in all its activities. This will ensure the following opportunities including community resources, training opportunities on cutting edge technology skills, e.g. Web, Mobile, VR, AR, IoT, Design, 3D, Animation and international and local mentors/technology experts etc. are geared to their specific needs:
- Students at four universities in Rivers State namely: University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State University, Ignatius Ajuru University, and Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, will benefit from the Hub’s industry experience and links. This included access to international technology training, resources, and mentorship and help to bridge the gap between academia and the industry.