Lagos, the economic powerhouse of Nigeria and arguably the entire African continent, is renowned for its vibrant startup scene, frequently referred to as the Silicon Savannah of Africa. This bustling city, home to diverse culture, creativity, and entrepreneurial dynamism, is teeming with startups and tech hubs that are revolutionizing sectors from FinTech to HealthTech, EdTech, and beyond. During our visit, we had the chance to engage with innovative startups, accelerators, and innovation hubs.
OPay: Revolutionizing Mobile Payment Solutions
One of the highlights of our Lagos visit was meeting the leadership team of OPay, a Chinese-backed, Africa-focused fintech company. OPay, one of Africa’s few unicorns, was launched in 2018 as a mobile payment service catering to Nigeria’s mobile-first population. By leveraging Lagos’ reputation as an innovation hub, it created a super app offering a multitude of services, from payments and ride-hailing to food delivery, accessible even on basic phones.
Environmental, Social and Governance aspects are in everyday action in our business.
OPay’s phenomenal success — achieving a $2 billion valuation by 20211 and securing $570M in funding within just three years2 — underscores the potency of the Lagos ecosystem in nurturing FinTech startups. By levying charges from some of Nigeria’s more than 40 million SMEs3, OPay can provide free transaction services for individuals, serving those who face challenges with formal financial accounts. “Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) aspects are in everyday action in our business, not a side project,” says Olu Akanmu, the President and Co-CEO.
CCHub: A Tech Innovation Hub Like No Other
While OPay is reshaping the FinTech landscape, CCHub is setting the benchmark for technology innovation hubs in Lagos. CCHub provides a co-working space for digital startups, nurturing an environment that stimulates innovation.
During our 2022 visit to Kenya, we were impressed by iHub, a CCHub acquisition, for its entrepreneurial activities and shared challenges in promoting research-based innovation. Surprisingly, when we met iHub in Lagos, it had already implemented solutions. It actively collaborated with local and international universities to foster a research culture and drive Africa’s economic prosperity through research-backed innovation. This spurred introspective questions: Are we adapting as quickly as them? Are we too comfortable in our own zone?
Nigerian Climate Innovation Center (NCIC): Championing Green Innovation
In a different but equally compelling sector, the World Bank-backed NCIC is driving green innovation. The NCIC supports Nigerian startups focusing on clean technology and climate-smart solutions, addressing critical areas such as renewable energy, waste management, circularity, smart agriculture, and water innovation.
Located within Lagos Business School, the NCIC taps into the city’s robust startup ecosystem to foster innovative startups. They provide access to finance, policy and regulation support, and capacity-building programs, equipping entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to create and scale climate-friendly solutions.
With projections indicating that Nigeria will become the third most populated country in the world by 20504, its inherent can-do attitude, young entrepreneurial talents, access to capital, and supportive infrastructure, it’s no wonder that a stream of successful startups is emerging from Lagos.