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Youths Disillusioned as Delta State Innovation Hub Shuts Down

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The decision by Delta state government to shut down its innovation hub has left teeming youths of the state disenchanted, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek investigations have revealed.

The common aim of innovation hubs is to promote local innovation, encourage relevant actors to share knowledge early in the development process, build Startups, create employment and foster entrepreneurial cooperation. The hubs support networking among local stakeholders and create links to investors and international organisations.

Primarily, governments facilitate and fund Innovation hubs to serve as centres of excellence for creativity and development of information technology amongst youths. The provision of innovation hubs could be a means of youth empowerment which would allow the youth to channel their creative energy into a potentially productive source for their communities.

Against this backdrop that Nigeria CommunicationsWeek recently visited Delta state innovation hub to ascertain the impact of the closure of the hub and its impact since last year on youth empowerment and what the state government’s plan to reopen the hub.

Among the youths that expressed their minds on the frustrations they are faced with the closure of the hub include Sylvester Nkeze, a web developer in Asaba, he worked as a software engineer and also involved in tutoring a lot of people who came to learn about fundamentals of software engineering in the hub when it was operational.

“The truth is beyond individuals having their personal skills; it was a kind of assembling point for people with like minds, the hub served as a place not only for people to learn but also to be able to gather people after they have done learning to share their ideas and use what they have learnt to create products or business for Delta State and Nigeria.

“Generally, the essence of the Hub is to make people converge their technological ideas into a scalable business that could help bring development and employment in the state. Nobody in this century can individually start a business, I’m talking of a large scale business and not small and medium scale business, and bigger businesses today are built on partnerships.

“There are a lot of people working around with great and good ideas and they don’t have people with like minds they can share those ideas with and be able to build on those ideas. The Hub served as a meeting point for such things to happen, the closure of the hub has totally destabilized the means through which a lot of ideas or large scale businesses could have been built or incubated that is one of the biggest problems.

“Right now, you have people walking around looking for menial jobs to do whereas their ideas could have been used to build businesses that could create jobs and even the government could tax for revenue. It is a big problem,” he said.

Henry Chuks, co-founder of Benx Technologies, Asaba based ICT firm, said that the implications of continuous closure of the Hub are enormous which include brain drain, youth unemployment among others.

According to him, “I know many people residing in Delta state who have left the state to better equipped hubs in Port Harcourt and Lagos after acquiring ICT skills and mentorship decided to establish in those states thereby leaving Delta with nothing. “More so, as they run their businesses in those states they will pay taxes and levies to those states’ government as such Delta state will lose that revenue.

“ICT is today the largest market globally, if 70 per cent of youths in Delta state are ICT inclined from programming to hardware engineering they can get jobs in or outside of the country, as well be self -employed with their talents which will help in addressing youth unemployment”.

According to Favour Asuainok, a student, “I just finished my OND from Ogwashi Polytechnic. My plan was to come and do my internship in Delta State Innovation Hub, when I contacted the director, he said the Hub is closed I was sad because I had plans of meeting great and like minds as well as sharing of ideas. I would love the government to look into this issue of closure of the Hub because, it is very important.

“I travel as far as from here (Asaba) to Awka in Anambra just because I want to attend Meet-ups and Hackathons to meet with like minds to bring innovative solutions to our problems in the country through technology. If Delta state government can look into this issue it will help to spring up starts-up that will create jobs in the state.

“Hub is a place of meeting. Information technology has paved the way all over the world, you see people that studied humanities, social science and languages among others coming to learn IT, because IT is thriving globally. If Delta state government truncates one of the key springboards for start-ups it is a very bad situation.

“I urge the government to not only opening the Hub back but also working in-hand with the ministry of youth and development so that this area of IT should be boosted in the state. Delta state is lagging behind, I have seen what states like Akwa Ibom, Edo and Lagos are doing, and this has resulted in youths in Delta going to Lagos where there are a lot of Hubs.

Providing insight on how the Hub operated before it was shut down, Pius Eke Jr, managing director, Mobile Software Solutions, operators of the Hub, he also served as the facility head of Delta State Innovation Hub.

He said innovation Hubs are designed for the youths of the areas they are located; Delta state innovation hub was no difference. “At the heart of the innovation Hub was an incubation and acceleration programmes, trainings, office and co-working spaces, youth development, business master-classes among others. We were assigned to ministry of Sciences and Technology as government supervising agency.

“Being a new subject in town, it was a bit difficult to be able to drive our intent and purpose to the teaming youths of Asaba as such we did a lot of marketing. Went to high institutions around Asaba such as Delta university, Awna Campus; Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwasi-uku; Delta state Polytechnic, Ozoro; Delta State University, Abaraka; and Delta state Polytechnic, Oghara.

“We were able to visit these higher institutions of learning and made them understand that the world is changing with new knowledge and new skills are actually in demand and they need to come and learn.

“As part of our service offering, aside incubation and acceleration programmes which of course is for already skilled people, we decided that since the skill is new in that terrain we would begin to teach these skills from beginning. So, we started teaching programming, and other technology related courses.

“With hindsight of our corporate and professional experience of successfully organising and running Innovation Hackathon in Tinapa with the Cross-River State Government for 4 years in partnership with ISPON, we helped in establish Software Clubs in 30 Universities Nationwide which has benefited many thousands of our youths. We organised meet-ups, we created platforms such as Asaba Tech Meet-up groups. We worked with Google to facilitate GDG Day shows as well bring tech conferences to Asaba and worked with CySic to bring cybersecurity training to Asaba.

“So, in all of these campaigns we had problems in having youths that resides in Delta engaging the Hub, instead the attraction we got were Deltains and non-Deltains from other States in other universities outside the state that come into the Hub when they are on holidays, internship or waiting for National Youth Service Corps, they find themselves coming back to Asaba as such visit the Hub.

“We had youths of Delta state that have gone to universities such as Covenant University, Afe Babalola University, Babcock University, University of Benin and University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Students from these schools came to the Hub to run one programme or the other.

“Delta State Innovation Hub was one of the first out of Nigeria. We ran the hub for three (3) years, without any funding from Delta State. We established the Innovation Hall of Fame, Created e-Government and Digital research Labs amongst others. Throughout the duration, we deployed 4 staff, external Resource persons, training materials and enormous resources from Lagos to Asaba.  In 2016, during the public presentation of the hub, our Chairman and his Consortium partners chattered a Jet from Lagos to Asaba at enormous cost, to fly in some dignitaries, due to aviation fuel scarcity. In all of these, we didn’t get as much support as we expected from the government considering that it was Private Public Partnership initiative. All said, the hub experience was a monumental loss to Mobile Software Solutions and still counting.”

Instead, the state was expecting and requested for huge sums of money as revenue – forgetting that innovation hub is a Research Domain whose return on investment ranges from 7-10years year-in-year-out.  Every of the activities we ran in the Hub, we ran it basically on our own from the leanest possible resource that we could run on. The hub has trained and mentored more than 1000 youths during its active inception at enormous cost to the project partner.

Responding, Engr. Mathew Tsekiri, commissioner for Science and Technology, Delta State, reassured that the state government has decided to reopen the hub as renovation work is on-going to reopen the facility for use by Delta youths.

“We are renovating hub, once we finish the renovation then we will start activities, it is going to be one of the best Hubs in the country.

“The MoU we signed with Mobile Software solution for the running of the hub has expired and we have decided to run the hub by ourselves.

“We are going to make it a proper education hub offering certified ICT trainings for graduates seeking for jobs, when we train them they will be employable or self-employed. We are going to offer high earned ICT courses.

“We have put the structure in place to manage the hub. We are not going to give it out to anybody to manage for us.

We intend to collaborate with ICT companies such as Google, Facebook among others, but we just want to get the hub up and running first.

We have the resources to get the hub running we are not going to seek for resources from any multinational ICT giants.

Meanwhile, available records reveal that Delta State indigenes are recognised in the Nigeria IT profession and Innovation Ecosystem as some of the high-flyers in policy, strategy and digital Innovation leadership. It is therefore a tragedy that while Delta State IT Professional has contributed significantly in the development of National and other States IT Policy agenda, they remain oblivious in their State. Perhaps, that is why the State Government has decided to consult Google and Facebook? The Investigation continues.


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FG Launches Central Database for Stolen Asset Tracing

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Federal government has launched a Central Database under the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations (ARTM), 2019 and the Central Criminal Justice Information System (CCJIS) under the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) 2017 – 2011 to assist in the fight against corruption.

FG Launches Central Database for Stolen Asset Tracing

Mr Abubakar Malami, AGF

Mr Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and minister of Justice, at the launch in Abuja, said the database will ensure uniformity of process, access and information feeding to deepen transparency and accountability in the management of recovered assets.

To ensure compliance, he said his office is developing legislation for the full implementation and operation of the CCJIS.

“We will work together to establish and re-enact transparency and accountability in governance and management of our resources which we have committed to do by way of strengthening International Cooperation of our membership of Open Government Partnership,” he said.

In his speech, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the House of Representatives, represented by Mrs Ugonna Ozurigbo, chairman, House Committee on Justice, said the regulation on Asset Tracing, Recovery and proper management of proceeds of crime was signed on October 24, 2019, and took effect from November 1, 2019, replaced the proceeds of Crime Regulation of 2012.

The new regulation titled Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations 2019 empowers the AGF to take charge of the custody and management of all final forfeited assets, approval and appointment of asset managers and operating and maintaining a database for the records of all recovered assets within and outside Nigeria.

He said, the AGF’s office, under the new regulation, is also required to coordinate inter-agency investigations into recovery matters within and outside Nigeria from all law enforcement agencies whose law empowers them to undertake recoveries and maintaining a depository for all forfeiture orders issued by the Nigeria courts and courts outside Nigeria.

Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management, according to the Speaker, is a core value of good governance and its effective management will serve as a deterrent to would-be fraudulent minded individuals who may find themselves in public offices.

According to him, states resources must not be allowed to be stolen but if that happened by fraudulent individuals, efforts must be taken to trace the proceed, recover same and manage for the interest of the generality of the people.

“When the proceeds of crime are traced and recovered but again looted by government officials, I dare to say such act amounts to the crime of tertiary capacity and must be avoided.

“Assets not accounted for are assets lost; loss of assets undervalues the economic potential of a country and will negatively impact on the net worth of a country. Accordingly, Asset Tracing Recovery and Management is a panacea to rekindling of the value system of a nation,” the Speaker noted.

 


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Konga Bulk Debuts Monday

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Konga, Nigeria’s foremost ethical and innovative composite e-Commerce brand is set to unveil a revolutionary new solution – Konga Bulk – which the company says will represent the new normal for forward-thinking businesses and consumers in the Nigerian corporate space.

Equally important, Konga Bulk, the latest innovation from the e-Commerce giant, is set to go live on Monday, September 21, 2020.

Through this initiative, Konga is rolling out a mega platform which has been touted a potential game-changer, offering manufacturers, distributors, resellers as well as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) an opportunity to take advantage of Konga’s world class assets including its secure regional warehouses, smart offices, cutting-edge technology, advanced logistics capabilities through an internally-owned subsidiary, Kxpress and its Central Bank of Nigeria-licensed payment platform known as KongaPay.

This is in addition to leveraging Konga’s e-Commerce engine and extensive marketing expertise in bringing their products and services to the consciousness of millions of Nigerians nationwide.

In other words, Konga is taking a huge burden off the shoulders of manufacturers and other business owners in Nigeria through this ambitious project.

By allocating physical office and warehouse spaces to partner businesses and placing its many other cutting-edge assets at their disposal, Konga is ushering many into the new normal by bringing succour to corporate entities, many of whom have been encumbered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, Konga Bulk will play a very important role, bridging the gap to genuine products and services between manufacturers, distributors, resellers, bulk buyers and consumers.

Resellers and other bulk buyers can also take advantage of best prices available for genuine products exclusively through Konga Bulk.

Kalu Johnson, vice president, Strategic Business, said businesses who sign up on Konga Bulk have a lot to gain.

‘‘Konga Bulk is a very ambitious project which we have positioned as the new normal.

“It is a unique opportunity for manufacturers to take advantage of the huge assets and real estate, both physical and virtual, available at Konga.

‘‘We have invested significantly and strategically in various areas of our operations.

“Today, Konga owns arguably the largest single warehouse space in Lagos in addition to other similar massive infrastructure in other parts of the country such as Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Uyo, Abuja, Owerri and other locations.

‘‘As a manufacturer, distributor or business owner signed up on Konga Bulk, you no longer have to worry about owning your own office or warehouse space. Nor do you have to bother about the heavy investment in logistics, delivery, payment solution, technology, marketing or activations.
“You can rely on Konga’s world class competencies and assets in these areas.

‘‘Businesses must find a way to rebound from the difficulties occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Konga Bulk, which is focused on ushering in the new normal, is one of the innovations we have come up with to provide a way out,’’ he concluded.

Konga Bulk goes live online at www.konga.com and offline in every Konga retail store nationwide on Monday, September 21, 2020.


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Access Bank Reaffirms Support for An Innovative, Smart Lagos State

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Mr. Herbert Wigwe, managing director and chief executive officer of Access Bank Plc, has said that Access Bank Plc will not relent in supporting innovative programmes aimed at transforming Lagos into a 21st century State driven by technology innovations.

Wigwe spoke yesterday during the finals of the Lagos State Smart Meter Hackathon design held at the Bank’s Corporate Headquarters in Lagos.

An initiative of the Lagos State Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, the Hackathon is aimed at providing affordable electricity meters to the populace by facilitating the design and production of meters that will accelerate efforts towards achieving improvement in energy distribution, monitoring and prevention of revenue leakage.

Wigwe who was represented by Mr Ade Bajomo, executive director, IT & Operations at Access Bank, said that supporting the Hackathon once more reinforces the Bank’s commitment to leveraging technology for the betterment of the society.

“Having Hackathon and innovative programmes like this, has always been part and parcel of our DNA in Access Bank. We are forever looking for new things to do to solve real problems in Africa and beyond; new things that would move the life of our people forward.

“We are always looking forward to doing things that would make more people financially independent, driving and enhancing the well-being of the entire society,” he said.

He noted that now the world is witnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and there are Africans working with the rest of the world and using technology to solve the problems of the people.

Wigwe stressed that Access Bank does not exclude the rest of the world when it comes to using technology innovations to address the problems of the people.

“That is why this Hackathon is very important because it’s our people solving our problems and leveraging global solutions to finding our answers to our own problems.

“And that is why at the Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF), which Access Bank is promoting, we want to have more innovators and innovations that will help in transforming our society for the better,” he said.

The Access Bank boss stated that to see this Hackathon come to light shows the commitment of the Lagos State Government to not only the project, but to the actualization of a smart Lagos, where electricity is accessible and affordable.

He pledged Access Bank’s continued support to the Lagos State Government’s efforts at building a smart state.

Mr. Olalere Odusote, convener of the Lagos Smart Meter Hackathon and the State’s Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, said that there were very many talented people who applied for the Hackathon, noting that there were 65 submissions in all, out of which its panel of experts reduced the number to the five finalists that participated at the finals of the Hackathon.

“We had the hardware yesterday and we were very impressed with what we saw. We are expecting no less from the software side. We are going to get engaged, look at what they have to offer and then integrate it into our future.

“We are trying to solve our own problems by ourselves. This is just the start; it is not a one-off project. At the end of the event, we will take the product to our prototype mode; we will take the product to a commercial development process,” he said.

The Commissioner said they were not just doing the Hackathon for the sake of it but are looking for solutions that will contribute to making Lagos a 21st Century economy.

He thanked Access Bank for its generosity, support and partnership with the State government. He also thanked other partners for joining in the journey of making Lagos a great state.

Five contenders each emerged from both categories of the competition, and the two winners are expected to share the prize money of seven million naira.

Finalists were shortlisted after a transparent, rigorous and competitive process.

The Hackathon attracted 274 registrations or entries, 127 of which bid in hardware category, while 147 competed in software group.

The five software finalists for the Hackathon on Thursday were Magnitronics, Vectorians, Zeena Platform, Chosen Soft Tech and Gideon. 

It would be recall that during the launch of the programme on July 30th, 2020, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu noted that the Smart Metre Hackathon Initiative marked a significant milestone in the implementation of the State Government’s plan towards improving access to electricity.

He said it aligned with the Sustainable Development Goal 7 of the United Nations, targeted at achieving universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030.

The Lagos Smart Meter Hackathon 2020 was convened by the Lagos State Ministry of Energy & Mineral Resources, curated by Eko Innovation Centre, and sponsored by Access Bank Plc, Egbin Power, and Ikeja Electric Distribution Company.

Other sponsors include Mojec International, Eko Electric Distribution Company, MOMAS Electricity Meters Manufacturing Company, ElSewedy Electric, Royal Power & Energy, Venture Garden Group, InfraCredit, and Axxela Limited.

They were supported by the Lagos State Office of Innovation and Technology, Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA), Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF), Oracle, IBM, General Electric, Business Day and Accelerate TV.

The Grand Finale of the Hackathon holds on Friday, September 18, 2020 at Eko Innovation Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos.


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