Writing the last chapter: Taking a bow

“I don’t know why I came to the Hub today, but I woke up and knew I had to be here” this statement was made by a member of our community, and it was one of the highlight of my stay in Akure.

On the 8th of February 2019, I took up a journey that would change my life forever. I took the offer to lead two organizations- Emerging Communities Africa and Akure Tech Hub.

Abraham, are you sure you are making the right decision? Akure is not a hot spot for the kind of work you do, kindly reconsider.

If your work in tech, you will understand the sentiment behind this statement, but I was sold a vision and I was ready to take the leap.

Trust me, I was scared, so scared, but I knew it was the right thing to do. And even if I failed, at least I took a leap.

I had just lost my mum a few weeks earlier and I needed a change, a new challenge, as I dealt with my grief.

Two years after, as I close this chapter, I am filled with nostalgia, partly sad (I will miss everyone), I was able to prove people right-great things can happen!

This because as I walked into Akure Tech Hub on the first day, I felt a strong desire to create a “safe space for Innovation”

To create a space, where young people felt safe to dream, to be free to be their best and innovate while at it. And to be honest, from the first day the doors of both Emerging Communities Africa and Akure Tech Hub opened, this was our driving forced.

Leading two organization came with its complexities, but I will always be grateful to my team (they are truly the best), they are the true hero of this story.

A lot has been achieved during last two years, but I will just highlight a few here :

  1. Winning the EU Horizon Grant

In collaboration with other consortium partners in Africa and Europe, we secured a 2 million Euros grant (€ 2,000,000) European Union (EU Horizon Grant) for a project called “AfrIConEu”. A project that will facilitate the cross exchange of Human capital between Africa and the EU.

I was so excited about this feat, because it showed how we had grown as an organization and to be able to achieve this feat in less than 2 years was not a small task.

2. Hernovate

Emerging Communities Africa launched its flagship program HERNOVATE which focuses on highlighting the role of women in driving the digital community. Hernovate is a platform that has been developed to serve as the bridge towards achieving the goal of developing and empowering women and girls in Nigeria toward bridging the digital gap currently been experienced in the country.

This is one project I will always be proud of, especially because this was the first programme in my career I was going to be designing specially focused on women and girls and I designed in 12 hours. The programme was launched by her Excellency, the First Lady of Ondo State — Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu.

3. 2nd Innovation Centre

Due to the giant strides achieved by the first tripartite Hub in Ondo state- Akure Tech Hub, we signed a second agreement with the Ondo state Government to set up the second tripartite hub. Which would be resident in another University in the state- Olusegun Agagu University of Science and Technology (OAUSTECH)

4. Partnerships

During this period, we went on to sign quite a number of partnerships with notable organizations around the world. One of the partnership that stood out to me was the partnership we signed with Microsoft, that was a big one, I remember when the representative from Microsoft came for a site visit and could not believe that we had achieved all we had in this “small space”.

To be honest she was right, because in terms of space, we were not the biggest Hub, but in terms of impact, no one could rival us (drops mic).

We also had partnerships with Flying Lab Nigeria, OIIE, Taxaide and Max.ng to mention a few.

5. Building a community

At the centre of the work we did in the last two years was to build a community around the work we were doing and this lead to the creation of 3 communities -(Business, Creative, Tech) with active membership of over 700 individuals.

At the last count, we had over 4,000 members of the community and the number is growing daily.

6. We went 24 hrs!

I remember when my team made a request that we made our operations 24 hrs during our mid-year review meeting, I knew it was something we had to consider. This was because even though we had been in operation for only 6 months, we had hit all the goals we had set at the beginning of the year, so we had to set new goals.

I knew it not going to be easy, but I knew we could make it work. I remember my first 24 hrs shift, I almost rescinded the decision, but the amazing feedbacks we got made us go on and today, we are one of the few hubs in Nigeria that run a 24 hours service.

7. EMERGING COMMUNITIES VOLUNTEERS AND INTERNSHIP PROGRAMME (ECAVIP)

This programme would always remain dear to my heart and was set up as “Get ready” work programme for students in the University, recent graduate, people in their gap year and Corp members to get hands on knowledge and also pick up the relevant skill set required in the work environment.

Participants in this programme got the opportunity to work with us and gain the necessary skills required for the work place. Quite a number of them now run their own companies while others are now fully employed in various organizations earning good salaries.

One of them was told during an interview “ if you have worked with Abraham, I am sure you have all it takes to join us"

We hosted a number of programme/ event, and here are a few of them:

  1. South West Regional Finals of the NITDA Future Hack

We hosted the South-West edition of the FUTURE HACK hackathon, which was curated by The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE). The FUTURE HACK presented the platform for innovators to solve the problem of Out-of-School Children, Teacher-training, and Improved Learning Ability. Innovators travelled from all across Nigeria to showcase their ingenuity, and we are as proud to share with you, that ‘Team Gesal’ — which represented The Federal University of Technology Akure, won the hackathon.

Open House and Community Meet-Up

As part of our goal to create a safe and conducive space for all, we are so much interested in building and investing in people through collaboration; and thus, the Open House, which takes place every first Friday of each month creates a platform for enquiry and for collaboration, for community growth. During the Open House, we welcome visitors into the hub, who are willing to know more about how we make an impact and advance the tech ecosystem in Nigeria.

Putting this together made me realize how far we had come in just a short time, this is because I could put all we have achieved here but if you want to read more you can do so here. (Report)

2020 was really a challenging year but I am grateful that we are bouncing back ever stronger.

On a personal note, I became a Mandela Washington Fellow during my time here and I was so excited. I even bought my first car here..lol.

As I move on to the next phase of my career, I would always be grateful to everyone who made the work that was done here possible.

Thank you everyone who supported this vision from day one.

I can wait for what the future holds!

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Abraham Akpan

Abraham Akpan

Human Capital Development|Innovation|Programmes| Mandela Washington Fellow