A week ago, Google launched its first Developer Space for Africa in Lagos. The hub of creativity was established as part of the tech giant’s aim to expand its tech assistance programmes in Africa. Google’s plan is to provide a hub where entrepreneurs could access the amenities they need to thrive. That includes funds, broadband, mentorship and creation of space for developers and investors in the tech industry.
Google’s country manager, Juliet Ehimuan said the hub is part of the company’s efforts to establish entrepreneur-enabling facilities that will boost the chances of those in tech. It is part of the 2017 series of events that culminated in Launchpad of several tech initiatives under “Google in Nigeria.”
Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai and other executives of the company were in Lagos to explore and initiate tech opportunities through the “Google for Nigeria” event. The launch of the developer’s space is a follow up of the events that started then in 2017, and has since fostered about 47 startups by providing the platform that helped them get funding and mentorship they need for growth.
The new Google’s Developers Space is situated at Gerald road Ikoyi as the first of its kind in Africa. It has 120-seating capacity hall, meeting rooms, lounge/café, among other facilities. And it is free according to the Launchpad accelerator Africa head of operations Onajite Emerhor.
“It will be available for individual use, code labs, hackathons, tech events, training, boot camps, startup related programmes, and other Google initiatives,” she said. She also noted that the space will be free for all approved events, only sponsored programmes are not allowed.
Emerhor also spoke about the process of admittance to Space. She said all intended businesses must be tech-based and aimed at promoting digital knowledge. Individuals who wish to use the facility will use the online application through a person of contact (POC). The POC arrangement is to manage applications and avoid overcrowding, by not allowing multiple events at the same time.
She also explained that extended usage of the hub is not allowed unless for Google Launchpad accelerator alumni and investors meetings from outside Africa.
The Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy has thrown its weight on the initiative and promised to collaborate with Google in the future to promote digital knowledge in Nigeria.
The head of Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT), Abimbola Alale promised to avail space within the agency’s campus if Google wishes to extend the initiative to Abuja.
Lagos State Government established such a hub for tech entrepreneurs in the State back in 2019 – the Eko Innovation Center, for the incubation of startups. Victor Afolabi, the pioneer of the Center said the idea is not only about incubation of startups, but it is also designed to offer platforms and opportunities for collaborations to entrepreneurs in the tech community.
“The motivation was the need to create an enabling environment for young people to develop innovative solutions and create employment while leveraging on technology,” he said.
The State Government has promised to support Google’s innovative initiatives so as to keep pace with global technological trends, and empower young people to explore and make innovative creations that will result in job creation.
Google has established development hubs in San Francisco, U.S.A and Singapore, making it only three in its name around the world.
There have been other tech hubs in Nigeria, but most of them are commercialized which makes it difficult for newbies with creative ideas to access, due to the cost of the space.
Lagos has 35 innovation centers, Abuja has 13 and Rivers has 5. These numbers have yielded employment for the youth and placed Nigeria in a position of competition with other African countries. There are over 440 active tech hubs in Africa with South Africa (59) Nigeria (55) Egypt (34) Kenya (30) and morocco (25) these countries lead with about 45% of the hubs in their region.
The launch of Google’s Development Space has added to Nigeria’s lead in the African tech industry. However, it falls short of what is expected as most of the hubs in Nigeria are privately owned and do not measure up to the tech needs in the country.