Mark Zuckerberg’s trip to Nigeria coincided with a tech initiative put on my Nigeria’s president Buhari. Zuckerberg spoke at the event, saying that he was “blown away by the talent of the entrepreneurs in Nigeria and by the focus on building something that is going to make a difference and make a change.” The Aso Villa Demo Day is another event that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship using new technology. As well as having presentations from thought leaders and experts from various Nigerian economic sectors, they selected 30 start up finalists to pitch their ideas at the event.
One of the three winners of the event was Tracology. Tracology deploys QR Codes to residents that have their waste collected by waste management companies. On arrival, the company can scan the barcode to verify whether or not the customer has paid for the service. The QR code is placed on the side of the bin, or on the wall of the customers residence and customers will be taught how to use their mobile phone to pay their bills. There are also plans to run this scheme out for other government services and revenue collectors to streamline the process. This is the first time I have seen QR codes used in this manner and I can immediately see the benefit of it. Often, payments, and checking payments can be arduous tasks that take a long time, and very inefficient. With this system, it is simple and will enable customers and revenue collectors to have more time, and hopefully, make less mistakes.
Another of the winners, Shuttlers, is a bus company that wishes to change the way people commute in Lagos. Commuting can be a tiring process, leaving workers exhausted by the time they reach their workplace. Shuttlers offer comfortable air conditioned mini busses equipped with Wi-Fi, where commuters can either catch a little extra sleep, read, or start work. They have various packages which enable passengers to either catch the bus from a bus stop, or even, in the premium package, have a door to door service. With Uber and other companies competing in this market, it is interesting to see more services aimed at comfortable commuting. Shuttlers, like many others are trying quickly to combine mobile technology with a different sort of transport to corner the market as quickly as possible. Sometimes, a luxury ride in an air conditioned mini bus is better than crammed up against the window sweating in traffic!
The final winner from the 30 was RecyclePoints. They have created a scheme that encourages people to recycle, pure water sachets, PET plastic bottles, used beverage cans, glass bottles , old newspapers and brown corrugated cartons. They go door to door collecting the items form participants in the scheme. Recyclers receive points depending on how many items they have recycled. To incentivise recycling is a wonderful idea and if it works it can make an enormous difference to many cities across the continent. Plastic waste is not only unsightly and unhygienic, it clogs up drainage systems and is one of the reasons that many cities are flooded during rain storms. My pet hate are the pure water sachets, which although very convenient when dehydrated, are also very easy to just throw on the floor after use. This is the first scheme I have seen that recycles them.
I would like to mention one other significant shortlisted organisation. Cedar Seed Foundation, were the only disability organisation to be shortlisted and their founder, Lois Auta, was the only woman from northern Nigeria represented. They created the solar school bag. The bag has roughly 7 hours of power after a 15 hour charge up and can be charged as the children walk to and from school. The inclusion of CSR is significant. In many parts of the continent, people living with disabilities are not afforded the same rights as able bodies people, and therefore do not get the same opportunities. This puts down a marker that there are no limits to the capabilities of anyone, especially in the in the tech world. (I hope to also write a blog on disability innovation in Africa)
Innovation in Nigeria is moving fast, hence Mark Zuckerberg’s visit. If you know of any other cool innovations from Nigeria, please comment or send us a Tweet. Also, please share the blog.