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Lagos skyline

Disrupt everything: 22 Nigerian startups and problems worth solving

Nigeria’s startup scene is one of the most vibrant on the African continent. Nigerians are innovating in many areas, chasing the next big thing in a country where the audience is abundant and the opportunities are endless.

With an estimated population of just over 170-million and an internet audience of more than 55-million, its 33% internet penetration means 67% of opportunity. Currently the only African country listed as the next economic powerhouse with the MINT alliance, Nigeria’s growth is remarkable. Its growing mobile audience has resulted in everyone building apps to solve different problems, with hopes of finding the next big thing. Nigeria’s current startup scene focuses on two core elements that entrepreneurs draw inspiration from to start their businesses, all quite indicative of Nigerian society. Though Nigerians tend to disrupt everything.

Entertainment

Undoubtedly in Africa, Nigeria has one of the biggest entertainment industries — from the famed Nollywood, one the largest film industries in the world, to its music scene that has attracted the attention of global musicians such as Akon and Jay-Z. Many startups in Nigeria are bringing the Nigerian entertainment industry online with many firsts, such as Afrinolly, an online platform that allows audiences to watch Nigerian movies, view trailers and get information on upcoming films. On the flip is Nextspeel, cashing in on Nigeria’s appetite for drama, boasting a streaming service for local TV series for free.

If online entertainment in Nigeria had a king, then it must be iRoko Partners. Dubbed as Africa’s Netflix, iRoko TV streams Nigerian movies for Nigerians in the diaspora and its music service, iRoking, is looking to solve the Spotify problem in Africa. The music streaming problem is a favourite in Nigeria, and Gidilounge, a music discovery network, has been playing in this space for some time. In the same space is a startup like Grumi that claims to have built Nigeria’s first music sharing platform for independent and unsigned artists to expose their music to audiences.

Then there is the mobile gaming frenzy sweeping the country with the likes of Gamesole hitting a million downloads on the Windows appstore. The mobile gaming space is coming into its own in Nigeria and so is the competition. Maliyo Games is hoping to replicate what the startups playing in the music and movie industry have done by appealing to Nigerians in the diaspora. While Kuluya, a member of the iRoko family (with its US$2-million funding) is making light of Nigeria’s political woes thanks to its popular game Oga @ The Top.

Commerce

If there was ever a problem that Nigerians needed to solve it was that of commerce. In the last five years the country’s entrepreneurs have cottoned on to the need of solving the problem of how business is done, how things are purchased and the need to grow the workforce. For the unbanked of Nigeria, Paga offers mobile payment/transfer solutions for both consumers and merchants. For the savvy users that need to cut out the clutter of shopping, the many ecommerce players such as: Jumia, Konga and Shoppi.ng provide a solution. For the unemployed trying to navigate the job market, Jobberman is leading the way and new players such as Naija Workman hope to do the same for smaller contractors and artisans. lest not forget Gloo.ng, which claims to be the country’s largest online supermarket .

Where the focus should be in 2014

The entertainment and commerce industries have benefited greatly from talented entrepreneurs but if the country is to become an unstoppable force in technology and business there needs to be a shift in 2014. Nigerians need to start solving other problems, or at the very least the people solving those problems need to come to the fore with funding and press.

Traffic

Some of the worse traffic issues in the world could be found in a single city in Nigeria — Lagos. Though a number of startups in the country have been working on a tech solution for this problem, locals attest that it is not making that much difference. Startups such as Traffix, RoadPeer and Traffikator perhaps need to rethink their solutions and perhaps employ some of the principles of ways to tackle this particular problem. Perhaps the introduction of taxi booking apps like Tranzit and EasyTaxi might help keep the roads free of too many cars.

Electricity

This is kind of ironic. Nigeria’s biggest natural resource is oil and it has one of the worse power problems in the world, with blackouts that last weeks at a time. The country has a booming generator industry because it is the most reliable form of electricity — surely there is a better solution.

According to Ventures Africa, business owners in Nigeria spend a serious slice of their revenue on sustainable power: “Many companies in Nigeria use over 10% of their income to run power from day to night. In other countries running power for the company is the least of one’s concern and normally amounts to 1% to 2%.”

This makes it difficult to build the next big thing, not impossible, just difficult. Perhaps the next big thing in Nigeria should be sustainable electricity. The urine powered project during 2012’s Maker Faire expo in Lagos is one of the only alternate solutions I have seen. What are some of the others?

Healthcare

Malaria is commonplace in Nigeria and everyone is an expert in its treatment. Africa is already solving healthcare problems from information gathering to notifications services. MedEnhanz is helping Nigerian medical professionals do their jobs better but there needs to be a consumer solution as well. Find-A-Med, recently launched in beta, looks promising as a tool that helps consumers locate a medical professional and hospital via their mobile devices. I am sure there are people doing this, where are they?

Education

Nigeria has quite the chaotic education system and university students could take anywhere from four to six years to complete an undergrad degree due to constant strikes and lack of infrastructure. Currently many startups are solving the education admin problem by digitising content and organising it. Not a lot has been done on better ways to learn and reduce the damage done by the many strikes. Though Skoola is pretty interesting with cool interactive ways to engage both students and educators. There needs to be more innovation in the Nigerian education space.

Author Bio

Mich Atagana
Mich started out life wanting to be a theoretical physicist but soon realized that mathematics was required. So, she promptly let go of that dream. She then decided that law might be the best place for her talents, but with too many litigation classes missed in favour of feminist... More