Silicon Valley, the world’s technology mecca, has been replicated in different parts of the world with naming convention that points shamelessly to it. In New York, you have Silicon Alley. Silicon Roundabout is in East London and Silicon Wadi in Israel.
In Nigeria, its iteration is Yabacon Valley. That’s not an agreed-upon name, however. Others call it Silicon Lagoon. Those building it out call it Yaba iHQ. And some just plainly call it, the Yaba tech cluster.
I like the last one better. No frills.
The particular alchemy that allows a tech cluster to materialize is not exactly known. Internet, geeks and funders? Low rent, internet, location and universities? Good road network, geeks and lots of problems to be solved? The market? All of the above plus some more?
When the Yaba tech cluster began to build in early 2012 – when the Co-creation hub opened – the major thing Yaba had going for it was its proximity to both the Lagos Island and the core mainland.
You know what, I take that back, even Surulere has that going for it and it never became the Nigerian incarnation of Silicon Valley. Suffice to say, that formula is not known yet. Suffice to say, a tech cluster can be built up anywhere.
Here are the top Nigerian cities where another tech cluster could be located, since we just proved not only Lagos has the right to one.
This Southern Nigerian city already has an incubator, Focus Hub, creating the startup culture.
But it also has more going for it that could make it into a thriving tech hub. There are the universities; the University of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State University of Science and Technology and the College of Arts and Science. That’s a huge pipeline for geeks right there, with some place for the liberal arts too.
Wennovation Hub already has a footprint in Ibadan. The incubator is right next to the University of Ibadan. There is also Lead City University and a federal polytecnic. What else does Ibadan have going for it aside the potent pipeline of geeks? The road network in Ibadan is pretty decent, rent is cheap and it’s really not that far from Lagos. If the Oyo government ever wants to build an innovation city from scratch as well, Ibadan obviously has more than enough land mass to support this (it’s the largest city in Nigeria).
There is the enspire hub, which interestingly has been around much longer than CcHub has in Lagos (it was founded in 2009). Abuja isn’t as congested as Lagos is, largely because it’s a planned city. It has a great road network too and has relatively better electricity supply (you can get by with PHCN and a 2KVA Inverter).
For startups that rely on efficient logistic systems to function, Abuja is a perfect location, because of its relative proximity to all corners of the country.
Really, these are merely top picks based on personal sentiments. With the will, strategic collaborations and enough money (just about how much it’ll take to build a stadium), any Nigerian state could build out and maintain a tech cluster.