Three Nigerian startup companies have received a seed fund of $15,000 each from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in the Idea Hatch (iHatch) incubation programme to develop their innovative ideas toward becoming entrepreneurs and achieving the digital economy agenda.
The three startups – Betalife, a health tech startup company; Xolani Health Limited, an artificial intelligence-assisted tool and Every Farmer, a solution that focuses on accessing funds for the agricultural value chain – emerged first, second and third, from over 5,000 applications that were later pruned down to eight.
Speaking at the iHatch Cohort-1 Demo Day and Cohort-2 opening ceremony organised by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in collaboration with JICA today (September 6, 2022) in Abuja, the director-general of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi said iHatch aims to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in Nigeria’s digital economy.
He explained that NITDA and JICA conceptualised and designed the iHatch, a five-month free intensive incubation programme executed by the ONDI and hosted within the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR).
“The programme is designed to help Nigerian entrepreneurs refine their business ideas through a series of coaching, lectures and boot camps to generate scalable and adaptable business models in the country.
“It would interest you to know that over 5,000 entries were received in the countdown to where we are today. The number was pruned down to 8, comprising a founder and co-founder for each startup, after undergoing two levels of rigorous selection process conducted by a panel of 10 judges, experts from diverse areas of technology and innovative entrepreneurship. The selection process assessed the startups’ ideas based on the criteria of profitability, scalability, social impact, idea technique, competitive advantage, experience and a clearly defined future roadmap.
“In the course of the programme, the startups benefited from free virtual and physical interactive lectures with experienced mentors, free workspace, mentorship meetings with tech professionals, pitch deck enhancement, and networking opportunities. In the course of the programme, four (4) of the startups, that were initially not legally registered, successfully registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) while work is in progress on the prototyping and intellectual property (IP) registration of their business ideas,” he stated.
Represented by the national director of the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR), Yau Isa Garba, Abdullahi explained that the partnership with JICA in the implementation of the iHatch programme is part of our initiatives to strengthen the tech and innovation ecosystem for the creation of more IDEs that will invariably contribute to the creation of jobs for the nation’s teeming youths and its prosperity. According to Statista, Nigeria has an estimated 3,300 startups in 2020, which is the highest in Africa.
“Nigerian startups have continued to attract more investments than other countries on the continent, with a number of the startups raising about USD$600 million in the first quarter (Q1) of 2022. The top 10 startups that attracted the funding are Flutterwave ($250 million), Moove ($105 million), ThriveAgric ($56.4 million), Reliance Health ($40 million), Bamboo ($15 million), Credpal ($15 million), SeamlessHR ($10 million), DrugStoc ($4.4 million), Casava ($4 million) and Sudo Africa ($3.7 million). These indicate the vast potential that abounds within Nigeria’s tech and innovation ecosystem.
“We have agreed with our partners, JICA, to extend the third cohort across the 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria. This will be done at the end of the second cohort, five months from now.
“Therefore, in many ways, the iHatch incubation programme will complement our efforts at implementing the digital innovation and entrepreneurship and promotion of indigenous content pillars of our Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2021-2024) to achieve the broader objectives of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) and vision of creating a wider pool of IDEs that will guarantee a sustainable economic growth and prosperity,” he further added.
He assured that NITDA is committed to improving incubation practices that support the creation of wealth and increase job opportunities for the nation’s teeming youths.
The NITDA boss stressed that the essence of the programme is to help startups refine their business ideas, support winners with seed funds to continue with their ventures and ensure young people look to create job opportunities instead of seeking jobs.
A JICA expert, Mr. Nao Fuwa encouraged the innovators to deploy the acquired knowledge and develop the right mindset and attitude to promote their businesses.
“Being a CEO is not an easy task, especially when you think of capital and human relations. The most important thing in business is passion, which attracts people. As employees and investors, these are core to your business and [are as important as] having a big vision.”
The acting national coordinator, Office of the Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI), Mr. Yakubu Musa disclosed that partnership is part of initiatives of NITDA aimed at working with relevant stakeholders to design and implement catalytic programmes that will consolidate the successes recorded in the Nigerian tech ecosystem and further accelerate digital innovation and entrepreneurship, in line with the objectives of NITDA’s Strategic Road and Action Plan 2021-2024 and the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy.
Speaking at the event, Favour James of Betalife Health Tech Company, disclosed that the company is going to bridge the gap between donors and blood recipients and create a platform for hospitals and blood banks.
“Betalife company offers 24/7 real-time, blood donation tracking and blood request-sharing service by connecting donors to patients in need of special blood types across various hospital
“The money we won will be used to expand our company and get more professionals aboard. We are going to work on our marketing strategies and create partnership with hospitals and blood banks,” she explained.