Nigeria’s Cambrian Moment

Nigeria’s Cambrian Moment

“Digital start-ups are bubbling up in an astonishing variety of services and products, penetrating every nook and cranny of the economy. They are reshaping entire industries and even changing the very notion of the firm.” – Ludwig Siegele

From the lagoons of Lagos to the mangrove of Calabar, from the beautiful plains of Sokoto to the plateau of Jos, all the way to the rainforest of Owerri, there is an entrepreneurial explosion in Nigeria, and it is unprecedented. Powered by microprocessors, mathematics, the beautiful science of numbers, is being transmuted by software, eating everything on its path.

And in the process, it is making a better sense of the nation, as entrepreneurs pursue the grand mission – fixing market frictions. Unlike the golden decade (the 1990s) of Nigerian entrepreneurship when amalgams of new generation banks were born, seeding a new age in the nation’s financial system, this moment cuts across sectors. From energy to healthcare, agriculture to logistics and even financial services, Nigeria is being redesigned by the combinatorial powers of software to arrange, re-arrange and make sense of atoms and bytes.

With cloud computing, immersive connectivity, and mobile devices, a 21st century Cambrian moment is emerging in Nigeria: the data everywhere is meeting cheap, ubiquitous and intelligent digital systems to process them. This is our time: welcome to Nigeria’s Cambrian Moment.

This digital feeding frenzy has given rise to a global movement. Most big cities, from Berlin and London to Singapore and Amman, now have a sizeable startup colony (“ecosystem”). Between them they are home to hundreds of startup schools (“accelerators”) and thousands of co-working spaces where caffeinated folk in their 20s and 30s toil hunched over their laptops. All these ecosystems are highly interconnected, which explains why internet entrepreneurs are a global crowd. Like medieval journeymen, they travel from city to city, laptop not hammer in hand. A few of them spend a semester with “Unreasonable at Sea”, an accelerator on a boat which cruises the world while its passengers code. “Anyone who writes code can become an entrepreneur—anywhere in the world,” says Simon Levene, a venture capitalist in London.

In last week of October 2018, I will be speaking before investors in Boston, USA on (startup) investment opportunities in Nigeria. If you are around that side of America, plan ahead.


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