‘We’ll fund any concept that can impact 10 million people’

Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Eko Innovation Centre, Mr. Victor Afolabi has expressed his organisation’s readiness to support any ideas or concepts that have the capacity to impact at least 10 million people.

Afolabi who disclosed this in Lagos during ‘A Conversation on Moral Leadership’ said that they are committed to incubating, accelerating, mentoring and funding innovation and technology startups. The event, hosted by the Eko Innovation Centre also featured participation from Acumen West Africa, an impact investing organization, and the African Venture Philanthropy Alliance, an ecosystem enabler attracting socially responsible investment to the region.

The conversation highlighted each organisation’s vision for a new type of leadership in Nigeria, one that would measure success not based on wealth and fame, but on character, contributions to society, and building a more just world.

Afolabi shared more with us about his plans to realize this vision through the Eko Innovation Centre, stating that,

“For you to be admitted into the Eko i-Centre, your idea and concept must have ability to touch 10 million people and also have commercial viability and strong social impact among other things.”

He explained that the idea behind the EIC was to use innovation and technology in solving the major issues in the Lagos State economy and Nigeria as a whole.

Speaking on the offerings provided by Eko Innovation Centre, Afolabi said that entrepreneurs admitted can spend a minimum of 18 months to 3 years and will also be taught tax management, procurement, finance, strategy and administration. “The idea is that when we have companies that come into incubation, their chance of survival is very high because of strong handholding mentorship we are going to be providing.”

Afolabi said that lack of capital was limiting the capabilities of entrepreneurs to develop innovation technologies in order to solve the problems in the country. He urged the state government to support and create the enabling environment for start-ups to thrive.

“We saw in the Lagos manifesto an agenda to make the state the 21st-century economy.

“The only way to create a 21st-century economy is to make sure you are creating the enabling environment for businesses and solution to problems that are driven by innovation and technology,” Afolabi said.

On his part, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said his administration would build innovation and technology centres across the state to address the problem of youth unemployment.

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Sanwo-Olu who was represented by his Deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat said that his administration recognised the place of technology as the key driver to fast-growing economies.

“Technology is the way to go. It is the way of the future and our administration is committed to leveraging on technology in delivering the megacity dream. As a government, we will build innovation and technology centres where we can bring in private capital and investors, get ideas from young people on technology and be able to start creating employment for our youths.

“We also believe that to achieve the THEME (Traffic Management & Transportation; Health & Environment; Education & Technology; Making Lagos A 21st Century Economy; Entertainment & Tourism) concept innovations and technology is key. People from those centres would come and give us innovative ideas to solve our transport problem; ideas with which they think locally,” he said.

Corroborating him, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Acumen, Jacqueline Novogratz pointed out the need for a mindset shift on the path of investors from sole financial focus to considerations for impact and positive benefit to society.

“We have seen yearning of young entrepreneurs around the world who want to put entrepreneurial tools to work against the world’s toughest problems, that’s what moral leadership is all about. And we need investors who are willing to walk that long and challenging path with them, if we are to overcome the great divisions we are experiencing in today’s world.”

Chairman of the Board of Directors of African Venture Philanthropy Alliance, Mr. Olayemi Cardoso explained that mentorship is the responsibility of everybody.

“We find a way to have sound clean mentorship whereby we pick the right role models and we pair them up with people who are coming down below who are relatively more junior and who are looking for direction.

“There is a lot of cross sectorial work, multi-stakeholder work that can be done towards helping to groom that concept of mentorship and institutionalizing it within our society,” Cardoso said.

Oluwatoyin Adegbite-Moore,  Executive Director, West Africa, African Venture Philanthropy Alliance echoed Cardoso by stating that Moral Leadership starts with self and government must create an enabling environment to ensure social impact through strategic Social Investments and Inclusive Business across sectors.

Dr. Andrew S. Nevin, Founding Director, The Africa Institute for Leadership and Public Administration, added that creating smart economies with technology-driven innovative solutions would lead to the creation of new jobs that previously never existed.

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