CcHub seeks UK tech entrepenuers for solutions to African social challenges
Co-creation Hub (CcHUB), the leading social innovation centre in Nigeria, has launched the ‘CcHub Diaspora Challenge’, an international project that will engage entrepreneurs, innovators and scientists from African communities in the UK and source scalable business solutions to social challenges in Africa.
The launch, held at Facebook’s offices in central London on Saturday 6 May saw over 300 people meet to hear keynote addresses from CcHub’s Co-founder and CEO, ‘Bosun Tijani and Dr. Nelson Ogunshakin, CEO of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering. Also in attendance was Emeka Afigbo, Platform Partnerships, Head of Middle East & Africa, representing Facebook, who supported the event. Nigerian musician Cobhams Asuquo provided entertainment on the day.
The CcHub Diaspora Challenge launch kicked off a UK-wide search for early stage ventures that are focused on one of three areas: financial technology (fintech), energy or education. A panel of judges comprising academics, industry experts and investors will select two ventures from each thematic area who will continue to receive nine months’ incubation from CcHUB and investment of $15,000 from CcHub. Ventures which are able to demonstrate sustainability and innovation are then each able to access a further $250,000 seed investment from Growth Capital.
‘Bosun Tijani, CcHub Co-founder and CEO said, “We have long wanted to build stronger tech community connections between the UK and Africa in order to increase Diaspora community involvement. CcHub is a social innovation hub - we innovate and build to address social problems, and we want to facilitate development-focused dialogues and attract the best talent to help us in our mission. The CcHub Diaspora Challenge is the starting pistol to engaging, mentoring, incubating and investing in Africans in the UK who can help ‘build Africa’ alongside us.”
CcHub is a vibrant community of over 15,200 technologists, entrepreneurs and other innovative Nigerians. In its five years, the hub has incubated and provided support to a portfolio of over 55 early stage ventures. In August 2016, the hub was the first port of call for Facebook Founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg’s when he visited Lagos on his tour of Africa.
Q&A with CcHub Co-founder ‘Bosun Tijani
In your own words, what does CcHub do?
We’re a technology innovation centre based in Lagos. What we do is look for exciting ways to use technology smartly for Nigeria, which is quite broad, but within that we manage to support technology start-ups who are building socially conscious solutions. So you find us supporting people in governance, health, or even environment, for instance. One of the start-ups that we are supporting is BUDGIT, which is probably the biggest budget transparency start-up in the whole of Africa. So we incubate start-ups. We also help governments use technology for public issues.
You used the words “socially conscious”…how would you describe that term?
Socially conscious is still really business, to be honest. I think people just get it wrong when it comes to Africa. If you have a have a continent where you have tons of kids to educate, someone needs to come up with a model as to how to educate them, and that model needs to be sustainable. A good example of a business we’re supporting which is very socially conscious is one that is Lifebank. Lifebank simply looks to create a blood management system for Nigeria. So currently it’s a bit of a pain for hospitals to get blood when they have a patient that needs blood. What they’ve created is a system that helps hospitals see blood available at all the bloodbanks in Nigeria. You can then order the blood and they’ll deliver. That is a for-profit business, but it’s a business that is solving a problem that is major.
Do you find these businesses like Lifebank, or do they come to you?
They come to us, as we’re well known for what we do, but we also have pipeline building initiatives where we seek ideas from certain communities. The CcHub Diaspora challenge is a great example of this.
How can members of the diaspora solve problems on the continent when they are so far away geographically?
I think that’s a huge misconception that people always mention when you talk about the diaspora. When diaspora is discussed, the only opportunity that people often see is remittance. That’s actually not true, within the diaspora community, within the UK for example, we have lots and lots of professionals, we have scientists, we have engineers. Some of these guys actually have the best information on the challenges we have on the continent, because by the virtue of what they do, they have access to information. Also, we keep forgetting that with the internet, information has become democratised. You don’t really need to be on the ground to have information. I know people who live in the UK who know more about what’s going on in Nigeria than people that live in Nigeria.
I see. Moving back to CcHub, what have been the major challenges you and the team have faced so far?
The biggest issue is that we don’t have the right ecosystem for innovation to thrive. People always think it’s just about money. Money is a strong part of it, but it’s not all of it. There’s certain things where if you don’t have them, the money will go to waste. So I think the biggest challenge we have is that alignment of players in the field to understand how powerful a strong ecosystem is. A major part of that is government as well. Disconnect between the pace that technology entrepreneurship is moving on the continent, and the pace at which the government is moving is so huge, and there’s certain things that only government can do.