BY Business a.m.
Edo State, South-South Nigeria, is recording a remarkable rise in the number of tech startups and a boom in entrepreneurial activities on the back of investment in digital infrastructure as well as reforms by the state government to guarantee the growth of businesses in the state.
The state is being repositioned to be among the leading startup ecosystems on the African continent, ready to contribute its fair share to the $6.6 billion Africa’s startup ecosystem.
The growth is hinged on the government’s commitment to utilise technology to facilitate economic growth and development, leveraging the state’s youthful population.
The state government, led by Governor Godwin Obaseki, is pursuing policies to expand internet access, provide digital infrastructure, and ensure a conducive environment for tech entrepreneurs to drive the state’s digital economy.
The government, in partnership with leading global tech giants, including MainOne, Facebook and Global Independent Connect Limited (GICL), has laid at least 400km fibre optic internet infrastructure (250 miles), aimed at boosting internet connectivity and providing the needed support to grow the tech ecosystem, including technology hubs and parks in the state.
These efforts by the government has attracted media attention, such as The Guardian UK, which wrote that the government is committed “to building business and technology hubs, expanding internet access for entrepreneurs, tech workers, government agencies and schools”.
The newspaper quoted Stephen Osawaru, a 38-year-old entrepreneur and business consultant in Benin City who works with a network of more than 300 startups in the state, as saying that many internet businesses in education, agriculture, health and finance that didn’t exist five years ago have now taken advantage of the connectivity in Edo.
“The internet is better and cheaper than it was five years ago; internet penetration is growing at an exponential rate and creating more opportunities,” Osawaru said.
Funke Opeke, founder of MainOne, described the public-private partnerships in Edo as “a model” for how internet access in Nigeria can be rapidly increased.
For Governor Obaseki, utilising technology and data to drive governance one of the 12 thematic areas of focus of his government. Others include reforms of government structure, making government the enabler in the society, creating a citizen-centric leadership structure, and so on.
“We are also ensuring that the government focuses on sustainable economic growth and building the physical and digital infrastructure that we require for our growth,” he said.