Despite failure of most ICT projects across the globe, EHIME ALEX writes on the possibility of Lagos tech hub’s success
Part of the vision to make Lagos State a smart city with modern infrastructure to enable the creation of more job opportunities is the proposed Yaba Technology Park. Execution of the project, which is expected to begin this year, will require the Lagos State government to guard against some inevitable bottlenecks.
Records show that most Information and Communications Technology projects all over the world were never executed. The International Data Corporation report of 2009 showed that 25 per cent of the projects surveyed experienced outright failure, up to 50 per cent needed substantial rework, and 20 to 25 per cent did not provide Return on Investment.
Also, a survey by Gartner, a technology research and consulting company, published in 2012, revealed large ICT projects with increased risks of failure compared to small ones, concluding that on the overall, about 50 per cent of the projects fail.
Following extensive research, the National Information Technology Development Agency had, in a statement, hinted that over 90 per cent of IT projects in Nigerian Ministries, Departments and Agencies failed.
While the causes of the failure is almost impossible to exhaust, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, while presenting a paper at the ‘1st Africa Information and Communications Technology Alliance E- Conference’, highlighted some of the remote as well as direct causes of IT projects’ failure to include inadequate resourcing, exceedingly aggressive timelines, wrong estimates, overlooked requirements, inadequate risk assessment, poor governance and human error.
It, therefore, follows that the Lagos government must consider all the debilitating factors that may hamper the execution of the proposed Yaba Technology Park and make it a reality.
The Yaba cluster park
The vision to design and construct a world-class ICT park in Lagos is part of the state’s KITE (Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship) initiative, christened KITE@YABA.
It all started when the former governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, visited Sabo, Yaba, in 2017 to see the concentration of technology hubs and startups. He then decided to support the movement to develop the suburb for greater economic good.
“I decided that the industrial park in Sabo will be turned into a technology hub. I went further and concluded plans last week to purchase the 8,000 sqare metres land adjacent to it to build a tech hub,” Ambode disclosed while speaking at the Lagos@50 International Conference themed ‘Towards a Smart City’.
The KITE@YABA is meant to transform the Sabo Industrial Estate in Yaba to a tech hub and provide an enabling environment that will facilitate and support the development of a tech cluster and ecosystem within the district; maybe another Silicon Valley where new set of entrepreneurs and innovators will be raised to address the challenges confronting the nation in the ICT sector.
When compared to other parts of Lagos or Nigeria as a whole, Yaba, located on the Lagos Mainland, boasts of a high concentration of tech companies, startups, incubators and accelerators. A residential and commercial area of metropolitan Lagos, Yaba is fast transforming into a tech hub.
A number of reasons have been given to be responsible for the failure of ICT projects, without regard to any government.
As indicated in the Nigerian National Development Plan 2021-2025, despite the continued improvement in Nigeria’s ICT sector, several challenges, including low funding and weak digital infrastructure, especially in non-commercial hubs, have limited the value-creation potential of businesses.
The document states, “To create high-growth businesses, including unicorns, and maximise job creation opportunities, the digital economy building blocks are of strategic importance and priority.”
A tech and public sector consultant, Ozioma Ubabukoh, stated that the only hitches that could be encountered on the project are government’s involvement.
He said, “Governments in all tiers in Nigeria have mostly or never been known to seamlessly execute projects without bureaucratic bottlenecks. In cases where it has been done, maintenance and/or sustenance of such projects had practically been a failure; hence the presence of moribund monuments and non-functional projects.
“Corruption usually comes to play via non-realistic regulations. To curb this, those behind the Yaba Technology Park must be combative in the event of such.”
Aside possible government’s involvement and issues of regulations, the park holds a lot of potential, Ubabukoh added.
Benefits of the proposed Yaba cluster park seems enormous. According to Ubabukoh, with plenty of business hatchlings growing bigger in the Yaba area of Lagos every year via incubators, it is clear that the park will be more than just a commercial neighbourhood.
“It can offer small companies resources beyond their wildest imagination or ability to finance themselves.
“Yaba is home to prominent institutions of higher learning – University of Lagos, Yaba College of Technology, Federal College of Education (Technical), etc. It is also home to outstanding government and private secondary schools. Indeed, the tech park will serve as a practical learning and skills acquisition point to thousands of students and pupils, he said.
The centre can be an incubator, a fledgling tech park, he added. “A technology park is physically larger and often boasts more established businesses as tenants, offering startups access to more experienced players in the sector.
“Since it may not have any affiliation with a university, as obtainable in most parts of the globe, it will foster and support new and emerging technologies as well as be a catalyst for incubating dynamic new businesses.”
Apart from venture capitalists and Fortune 500 tech companies trooping in to explore the immense talent in the hub, influential tech business enthusiasts, like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, have expressed interest in Nigeria’s technology space, as evidenced in his visit to the hub in 2016.
Year 2020 was a record-breaking one for African tech startups, with 397 companies securing $701.5m worth of investment. Nigeria is one of the premier investment destinations in Africa.
At a technology conference last year, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos hinted that the project was coming along with some big names in the tech space.
He said, “We are doing this with some of the big names in the world like Facebook called Meta. Microsoft is also talking to us and a lot of them want to be part of the KITE initiative at Yaba, and we are believing that the construction will start in 2022 and it’s supposed to be a campus where all can come, think and innovate everything they can imagine with any kind of campus of its status anywhere in the world.”
Need for the project
Nigeria soared past other countries to take the crown in 2021, as the number of startups attracting investment in the country snowball. According to a recent report by Disrupt Africa, 161 startups in Nigeria raised $903.68m of the $2.15bn that 564 startups raised in Africa.
The 161 startups based in Nigeria make up 28.5 per cent of Africa-funded ventures in 2021, the most companies backed in any country – a title Nigeria holds for the second year running.
The figure (161) soared 89.4 per cent from 2020, when Nigeria had only 85 companies. In 2019, the country contributed 48 startups to the list.
Fintech is the most popular sector in Nigeria once again, accounting for 44.1 per cent (71) of funded startups, raising $536.66m (59.4 per cent) of Nigeria’s total.
Since 2015, the African Tech Startups Funding Report has tracked significant growth in terms of Investment into the sector, but the sort of growth witnessed over the course of 2021 was unprecedented.
It also showed that investors in Africa tech start-ups more than doubled in 2021.
There were at least 771 different investors in African tech startups in 2021, an increase of 108.4 per cent on the 370 tracked in 2020.
“The number of investors in the sector has been growing exponentially, reflecting the wider publicity the space is receiving and the increased confidence in impressive returns,” Disrupt Africa stated.
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