Interviews

US Government Aims to Reform Nigerian ICT Startup with the Geeks on Plane Initiative

Following the just concluded 2016 High Growth Africa Summit attended by top technology entrepreneurs from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Africa. Jill Moss, ICT Technical Adviser, Global Development Lab USAID was among the stakeholders that graced the summit. She had a chat with CFA on issues hovering around the Nigerian technology startups, President Obama’s Geeks on the Plane Initiative and the outcomes of the High Growth African Summit.

Kindly introduce yourself and what’s your mission here in Nigeria

I am Jill Moss; I advise the West African Region on the development of their ecosystem, particular in USAID turning it’s operation into more science, technology, innovation and partnership work.

USAID recognizes in the 21st century for us to modernize our develop our enterprise, we need to the utility of science and data, evidence generation, and prove of impact in what we do. We also need to be thinking about the technological advancement the world is going through and leverage on them. And part of that includes the innovative young social entrepreneur are coming up with like here in Nigeria. Innovators  who understand the local context, the challenges in doing working Nigeria. Because of their innovation we see the opportunity for us to leverage that knowledge and what they are coming up with, utilize them in the development work that we do. So, what I advise on is how we can build partnership between public-private individuals, government to government, a collaboration with high valued individuals, USAID and more tied collaboration with stakeholders etc. We know their lots of development when we work in partnerships. So my work in West Africa is to continue to nudge USAID in the direction of using science and technology and partnerships. And need for Nigeria to understand the ecosystem better.

What about Co-Creation Hub (CcHub), did you visit them?

As part of the Tech Tour, we visited CcHub, and we have the opportunity to visit some of the innovators who are better utilizing the space to understand the challenges they are facing. The commitment they have made to helping and inspiring economic opportunities in the work they do. We also have the chance to visit Idea Hub, next door to CcHub. In the tour we made, it was always inspiring to sit down with young entrepreneurs who have the vision and recognize that for their vision to be realized; they’re needed mentorship, space to work, connectivity and seek to fund.

Find funding is the essence of the Tech Talk Event that transpired this week. We saw at the African Technology Investor Summit recently, where we convened a variety of angel investors, venture capitalists. We had talks on where there are opportunities to investing in the economy that is building here in Nigeria. The event we also held at Land Mark Event Center, High Growth Africa Summit. It was a way to pull together innovators, investors, incubators, organizations like ours (Donors). We had fruitful talks on how to stimulate your initiatives, how to seek capital, where the government can render assistance in this process. Also, the various regulatory models on how to making a smart investment and young entrepreneurs successful. It’s a very productive two days, hopefully, have generated good grounding for initiatives, that USAID would bring in back to Nigeria in 2017.

Please speak about what USAID would bring back in 2017

The Tech Tour is one of the two events that were held in Land Mark Event Center; it was an opportunity to better understanding the ecosystem in my perspective. In doing this groundwork, USAID is committed to working with 500 start-ups in partnership to bring in much in 2017 a group of Silicon Valley investors, high valued individuals, venture capitalist. As well as organizations who are interested in investing in Africa, who necessarily do not understand the ecosystem or the hurdles of investing here, opportunities per se. The Geek on the Plane initiative or how it is framed and they are giggy individuals because they are so smart. We would put them on the plane. We would transport then to Africa. We would be stopping at Accra for three days. We would be doing series events and then Lagos for series of events. Then, to Johannesburg and Capetown, they are going to get exposed to 4 ripe markets in Africa where opportunities to invest exist. This Geeks on the Plane Initiative is in consequence of President Obama’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit Initiative. Over the last few years, the Obama Administration has helped Global Entrepreneurship Summit pulling in from around the world entrepreneurs who want to invest. The most recent summit was held in Silicon Valley, after that event. The Obama’s administration announced the Geeks on Plane Initiative specifically focusing on Africa.

What’s the size of the plane

We hope it’s 777. We want to bring as many gigs as possible. They are inspiring individuals who hopefully would find opportunities to invest.

You have been to CCHub, one of the challenges we have here is ambiance and connectivity, any support from you?

Well, I do have ideas about the connectivity questions especially when I talked to the innovators about the challenges they are facing. Simply, its lack of bandwidth and connectivity. So, that’s one area that the US government can help, we believe. The Obama’s administration recently announced the Global Connectivity Initiative. This is a whole lot of US government project. We recognize that around the world, there are 4billion individuals perhaps don’t have running water, connectivity, electricity, are impoverished. Global Connect is an effort to bridge at least 1.5 billions of these people into the global world market. So, one way that I believe US government can help is to use satellite technology, to deliver to broadband into rural areas. It’s a process that would take a whole lot of US stakeholders to convene and agree, potentially coordinate virtuous of K.A Band Satellite Transponders. If that’s is happening then the opportunity to deliver broadband connectivity is much closer a possible reality. So, let’s assume we can provide KA Band broadband and connectivity. This is not a project the US government will want to do alone; we would surely need the government of Nigeria, as well as various communities. It doesn’t add any meaning of the communities doesn’t understand the value. So delivering it to schools, hospitals, potentially providing to local communities, government offices. This is the starting point that I believe on the Global Connectivity Initiative.