We can embrace technology and innovation fully, implement it and even improve on it, right here in Nigeria, in Arewa, despite the countless problems weighing us down. We still have a chance, an opportunity to develop this region, and believe it or not it’s staring us right in the face.
But What Is The Problem?
Popular stereotypes have developed around the Hausa man’s reserved feelings when it comes to western education even though most of us practically grew up in the school system. We breathed it, were born in it, and lived through the horrors of having multiple assignments in one night. Granted, Northern Nigeria has one or two third-world problems like everywhere else but it’s still exaggerated, and one of the blessings no one realises is the insane number of nerds and geeks amongst us.
You did be surprised at just how many people I have met that turned out to be real enthusiasts of gaming, anime, cartoons, comics, tech and a whole host of other nerdy stuff. I am talking about those special breeds that love science-cy sounding stuff and want to become Iron Man. Whenever I discuss with one of them, we usually start off with some simple references to pop culture in the cartoon and super-hero movies variety, before we dwindle to cussing out Nigeria and Africa whole for not letting innovation thrive, it happens every single time. Because obviously we are angry at people that cannot not speak good English (and remain adamant about it) or operate a computer even if the manual is staring them in the face, but you can hardly blame them, schools actively crackdown on creativity. It is the rebellious and whole-heartedly geeky that always survive the aftermath.
But if there are so many creatives lying around why does it feel like there is no one else you could share ideas with? Let’s say you draw, you are really good at it and every time you post your drawings on social media people compliment you, I am sure that happens a lot, but what doesn’t happen a lot is finding one of your fans actually talking about brush strokes, pencil types, shades you used, etc. Why is that so difficult, finding someone that actually shares your delight, insight and experience on this thing you love to do, namely drawing in our case? The simple short version of the answer is we just got here.
I mean Nigeria is literally and figuratively the heart of the under-developed nations of the world. The TV and computers just got popular about twenty years ago, when we were just kids. The long version of the answer as to why it’s so damn difficult to stumble upon a nerd is because we don’t have a community that harbours them. A kind of a hub, a centre, specifically designed to get creative people from the tech niches or art niches or even mashed up together to have fun and exchange ideas. We lack these kinds of communities, it’s petrifying.
What Creative Hubs/Communities Could Do For Us
The greatest perhaps the grandest advantage of having a creative hub around is it provides an opportunity to network with people from similar and often diverse industries. This in turn encourages collaboration and teamwork between designers, entrepreneurs, inventors, artists, developers, techies and other creatives.
From subtle meet ups to elaborate conventions creative hubs provide the ideal platform to come together to form a community with a common goal, it is safe to assume the common goal usually has a lot to do with development and nothing whatsoever to do with a Nerd Uprising.
With people forming stronger ties within and beyond their industry (i.e. their businesses/jobs) through networking, more and more projects are realised and done more efficiently, because now they are exposed to more resources and tools in the form of advice, consulting, digital resources, insider knowledge, etc. from the hub/centre they are members at.
The projects or work accomplished there would come to benefit our immediate society or even the world.
Currently the EU, Britain and most developed countries are seeing to it that tech/creative hubs become an integral part of the economy, because it is but officially recognised this time. The global market is shifting dynamically to a more entrepreneurial economy. Governments are breaking their backs to see SME’s and startups (which incidentally are the main associates of creative hubs) get funding and whatever help they could get to generate enough income and scale, because lately they influence the GDP greatly. The UK just poured £21 million Pounds worth of funding to accelerate their tech hubs in 2017, that’s equivalent to about one hundred million scoops of ice cream if each scoop costs a hundred Naira each, in short a lot of money.
Where Do We Start
Thanks to the internet rapidly increasing the rate of globalisation, we are speedily catching up to our European counterparts. There are currently over a hundred hubs scattered across Nigeria and even hundreds more across Africa. Some are tech hubs, some creative, some fashion and some others social enterprise hubs.
Hubs function in many different ways to serve the community but a highlight of their major function is catering to startups and freelancers, providing them with tools and resources that will add value to them. Hubs are specifically designed in such a way to inspire creativity and foster collaboration. The good thing is there is nothing mysterious about starting a hub, anyone can start a hub. Be it virtual (i.e. online) like Young Emirates at this current stage, or physical like a workspace or a studio (art), etc. Silicon Valley is a solid example of how far a hub could go, it started somewhere.
In terms of sustainable futures and what not, we are left behind and need to play catch up fast, and creating and managing hubs is a step closer than we might imagine. We have the brains, the talent, and the skills, it is all but useless if we don’t put them to good use, this freaking continent needs to patch things up fast. We can plan bigger and achieve even better results, together.