Written by: Iyinoluwa Aboyeji
“By their fruits you shall know them.” – Mathew 7:16
When I returned to Nigeria in 2013 to start building startups, like most of my peers from that time my permanent address was the sixth floor of Bosun’s CcHUB in Yaba. The other address was an expensive wardrobe with a floor mattress I merely inhabited – with a roommate from CcHUB of course. Fast forward five years later and the vibrant and loud community of innovators that gathered in the Upper Room of 294 Herbert Macaulay Street between 2014 and 2016 are today’s captains of industry in Nigeria’s fast-growing tech industry. This year, our industry celebrates hundreds of startups worth billions of dollars employing the vast majority of Nigerian graduates and attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in investment for a country still described as Africa’s money-losing machine, we can never forget that the miracle of Yaba all began on the sixth floor of a Co-creation Hub boldly led by Bosun Tijani.
Nigerians being who we are with honor and prophets; few give Co-creation Hub its full credit for laying the foundations for our burgeoning tech ecosystem but we know the truth – many of us owe our talent, careers, co-founders and newfound wealth to this institution that has stood the test of Nigerian time. There is a reason some of the most powerful tech titans in the world like Jack Dorsey, Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg make – not Aso Rock or Bourdillon – but Yaba’s Co-creation Hub their first stop on visits to Nigeria. There is no doubt that Co-creation Hub under Bosun’s leadership for the last decade continues to represent ground zero for our constantly growing and evolving ecosystem. What 2019 represented, however, were the first concerted efforts to take the successful innovation ecosystem Cocreation Hub pioneered in Nigeria, Pan African.
In 2019, Co-creation Hub’s acquisition of iHub in Kenya broke the news and all protocol in its sheer audacity and foresight. However, for those of us keen observers of the African tech ecosystem, it was merely the crowning effort in a series of game-changing moves he’s been making this year. From the launch of the Co-creation Design Lab and Design Fellowship in Kigali to the convening of the Africa Tech and Creativity Group (ATCG) which support entrepreneurs following the promise of the AfCFTA to go Pan-African to the announcement of an ongoing $60m raise for Growth Capital, Co-creation Hubs Venture Capital Arm and my personal favorite this year, the founding of StemCafe, a play-based approach to STEM education for children which I sincerely believe will replace school in short order.
Nonetheless, the feature that most endears Bosun Tijani to entrepreneurs like me is his strength of character. In a society like Nigeria where success bestows on one the sort of privileged access to our elite that can only be maintained by unprincipled silence in the face of injustice, Bosun has not only spoken truth to power in the face of injustice but organized our industry to do the same. Most recently when a young Nigerian working in the tech industry was harassed by the police, he convened the ecosystem to support and fund #StopRobbingUs which brought international attention to the plight young Nigerians face at the hand of the Nigerian police officers who in violation of our laws and their sworn oaths extort Nigerian youths rather than protect them. It is because of principled leaders like Bosun Tijani we have not gone the way of other industry groups who make regular pilgrimages to Abuja to beg for government subsidies and preferential trade policies that hurt the Nigerian people.
Like many others in our ecosystem, I have enjoyed the privilege of a close mentee relationship with Bosun Tijani as I built Andela and Flutterwave. Every time we talk I come away with powerful learnings and an affirmation of his genuine desire to support those building the future in Africa. As Bosun Tijani always says, “my mandate is to support the people building solutions to people’s needs.”
Thank you Bosun Tijani. On your mandate our industry stands.