Africa’s Tech Industry Found a Home in Lagos

Lagos panorama by H. W. Schlieper (Creative Commons)

Startup City: Lagos, Nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and one of the fastest growing cities in the world – Lagos is expected to double in size in the next 15 years, according to the Populations Reference Bureau.

And in recent years the port city has become an incubator for some of the continent’s biggest startups, including Jumia, Africa’s answer to Amazon, and Easy Taxi, an Uber rival, both from Africa Internet Group.

Even as other global tech hubs have experienced a slowdown, the city, and Africa’s tech industry in general, has continued to see big growth in funding .

And the city is just getting started.

“The Lagos startup scene is in its infancy – but growing fast,” Collins Onuegbu, the director of the Lagos Angel Network, told us. “We see Lagos as the ultimate hub for startup investments in Africa in a few years.”

As the heart of Africa’s tech industry, Lagos is growing so fast that it’s even hitting some of the same problems big cities like London and New York face – specifically, it’s getting pretty expensive.

But there’s still plenty of room for you and your startup in this global megacity.

The City’s Startup Support
Collins Onuegbu’s organization, Lagos Angel Network (LAN), has invested early seed funding in ten companies since launching in 2014. “Most importantly, though, angel investing involves more than funding,” Onuegbu said. “Mentoring and handholding are a key part of our investment.”

LAN and its members have supported: Sproxil, a tech company that uses mobile technology to combat counterfeiting; Pass.ng, a practice and testing platform for Nigerian examinations; and Codeware, which helps companies with business process automation. “There is a lot of space to grow, and our objective goes beyond investing to helping build this startup ecosystem,” Onuegbu said.

Considered Nigeria’s first startup incubator, over 50 startups have made Co-Creation Hub their home. In December, to mark their fifth anniversary, the incubator announced a $5 million social innovation fund. The fund will offer support “for early stage social enterprises solving local problems across various sectors of the Nigerian economy,” according to the company release.

And what’s a tech hub without a coworking space? Capital Square offers budding startups all the co-working essentials – wifi, desks, meeting rooms, office and event space–and they run workshops, training, and networking events.

Sample the City’s Startups
The fiscal analysis company, BudgIT, shines some much-needed light on Nigeria’s notoriously corrupt political system by showing citizens where the country’s money goes.

The company, which started in the Co-Creation Hub, “uses an array of tech tools to simplify the budget and matters of public spending for citizens, with the primary aim of raising the standard of transparency and accountability in government,” according to the BudgIT website.

“In Nigeria, it can take up to 90 days to legally register a business,” according to Quartz. But DIY Law, started by the three female lawyers, offers online services that automate and guide would-be business owners through the onerous process.

In 2009, three university students started Jobberman to help combat Nigeria’s unemployment problems–the job listing site is now the largest in both Nigeria and Ghana. “If you put food on the table by virtue of getting a job for someone, that person also fends for a mother, or a brother and you create a multiplier effect within that household,” Olalekan Olude, one of Jobberman’s founders, told the BBC.

Comic Republic, a Lagos-based digital comic book startup, releases 30-page books for free to nearly 30,000 readers. The company “is able to generate enough money through advertising and spin-off projects, including educational booklets on malaria featuring [the comic’s] characters, to keep the business running,” according to the AFP.

“People had this idea that African comics had to be with people in traditional clothes, but I don’t agree with that,” the creator, Jide Martins Martins, told AFP. “Let them have Nigerian names, saving people in Nigeria, but let’s put them in spandex.”

Food, Booze, and Recreation
There’s more to Lagos and life, than your startup, so we asked the editors of Eat. Drink. Lagos, who go by Nosa and Folly, to let us in on the best spots to hit during your limited free time.

“Somehow a small cafe above the local grocery store has become home to arguably the best sandwiches and salads in Lagos,” the editors said of Delis, a bar-meets-cafe combo above a grocery store. “The roast beef, in particular, might be the best you’ll taste all year,” they said. And it “doesn’t hurt that they stock all your favorite foreign beers.”

“RSVP serves a very succinct American fare menu, which focuses on “quality over quantity.” This sleek, modern, space also serves drinks poolside. It’s not just Nosa and Folly’s favorite restaurant, though; it’s one of the hottest spots in town. They recommend making reservations.

The food truck trend has come to Lagos in the form of Urban Fuxion and their “fall off the bone” ribs and margaritas to go. Urban Fuxion opened in the summer of 2015 with the desire to create a nationwide chain of comfort food restaurants–all mobile and open late, often till 5am. The truck was part of the first Eat. Drink. Festival, a food event hosted by Nosa and Folly in December.

You and your startup won’t go hungry in Lagos.