On a rainy Tuesday afternoon in Lagos, three dozen youths sat hunched over laptops in the buzzing Co-creation Hub. Femi Longe helps mentor these entrepreneurs to create tech solutions to social problems.
The Africa Report: What's the philosophy behind Co-Creation hub?
Femi Longe: Our focus is seeing how we can channel the innovation and creativity and resources of Nigeria to solve common social problems. We also believe there needs to be more collaboration for solutions, so we act as a nexus point for a wide range of Nigerians or organisations.
What successes have you had so far?
One of our first applications was a platform called BudgIT, which basically explains public finances. It converts the budget into formats which are easy for any citizen, irrespective of their literacy level, to understand.
In a very short while it's become the de facto place to go if you have any questions around public finance in Nigeria. During the [January fuel subsidy-related] Occupy Nigeria protests, the guys in here built a mobile app called the Budget Cut application which got citizens involved in the process of suggesting areas for government to save money in the budget.
Are tech solutions necessarily the best way to reach more than 100 million Nigerians without internet?
The reason lots of solutions have not scaled in Nigeria is because they are not leveraged, they don't have access to an easy platform to get solutions to as many people as possible. I don't think you'll find an easier platform to achieve that than through a mobile.
Is attracting funding the key problem for start-ups in Nigeria?
It's a problem, but it's not the major problem. BudgIT has in the last year run on a grant of about £7,000 a year. The major problem is even getting an idea that's adding value for someone and being able to execute the idea. What we tell the guys we support is, you shouldn't spend your time chasing funding; rather create a relationship that will get things that the money would have paid for.
Can you see a global product coming out of Nigeria?
There's no doubt we'll have a global solution come out of Nigeria. The Nigeria Constitution application, basically putting the constitution on a mobile phone, had 10,000 downloads in the first 72 hours. A new version got to more than 200,000 downloads in four months. We want to create a constitution of every country using their technology. If we're going to create a global solution we will first start by solving a Nigerian problem●