Kano tech ecosystem: opportunities, challenges and the way forward


One cannot over emphasize that the tech revolution has indeed been a tsunami that has positively impacted and contributed to the lives of many youths in this country. The commercial city of Kano in present day Nigeria has not been left behind in the global movement of using technology to revitalize economies and champion development. Contrary to the belief that all tech driven development is found around Lagos and its axis, Kano has proven itself a key and vital environment in this respect. This is because aside from being the most populous state in the whole country, it boasts of a very robust and vibrant commercial demeanor. In recent times we’ve witnessed a lot of tech startups, communities, companies and activities, this will arouse the question of whether or not these developments have contributed to the growth of the state.

During the last Google Developer Festival in 2016, we saw about 700 developers gathered in the city. This is by far the largest number any northern state perhaps even some southern states have gathered in a single event. The local developer community Code Pyramid often holds a monthly meetup, and has an increasing number of attendances every month. During their last meetup which was centered on hardware programming, about 50 persons including female developers were in attendance. So, this begs the question, does the tech community have any impact? Some people, especially those who are not familiar with the activities in the state tech ecosystem might still see it as an infant movement. However, there have been several solutions and products that have been shipped out from the city mostly in anonymity to the Nigerian mainstream media or so called tech blogs.

POS4Africa for example is a hardware company that specializes in manufacturing and producing POS machines and softwares for enterprises. Its products are consumed by companies and businesses in neighboring countries including Niger, Chad and Cameroun. It does so by sourcing its materials locally in Kano and developing the softwares as well. Hardware companies will do well to have a presence in Kano as this will help them reduce the cost of manufacturing; this is demonstrated in the case of POS4Africa. However, it’s not only hardware that thrives, software developers have also increased in significant numbers. The first tech community Google Developers Group is now in its sixth year. Started by the co-founders of Flexisaaf, an ed-tech company that provides technology based solutions for schools. Usman Ibrahim was the first lead in Kano and a mentor to a lot of self made developers in the country and diaspora. His colleague Faiz Bashir started the first technology community in Nigeria. This people were all based in Kano.

Today, we have a number of tech hubs, co-working spaces and innovative startups in the city. Another Kano techy won the second place in a hacking challenge that was organized in Abuja, he bagged home N300,000 just for the competition. I had a little talk with him after the event, he is just 22. In essence the ecosystem may not be as noisy as the ones in the south but we have people working and building disruptive solutions to change the narrative. Startup Kano, an entrepreneur’s ecosystem recently graduated a startup it incubated, the first online on-demand food ordering service called Rest Meal. You can sit at the comfort of your room or office and order the exact type of food you eat at a regular restaurant, the company will deliver the food hot as served within a very short interval. They are currently testing at Bayero University Kano, many students are familiar with the service. Ideal for the busy working class people in the city.

Opportunities, one will ask at this point if any exist. Yes there are a lot of opportunities. In the tech world opportunities come in form of ideas, services and solutions. Kano has in abundance all these three. Many talented and gifted young minds are learning and mastering the art of programming every day. Many of them have brilliant ideas they are already working on. Others have products and services that will fetch investors a lot of fortune. I know many will say that it’s the same everywhere, but let’s face the reality. Would you not rather build for an unsaturated market than to enter a tug of war with others in the same niche? We are talking about over 10 million people from the all over the world in one city, Kano. Whatever works in Lagos can work in Kano, it’s not a topic for argument. Some people have a preconception about the city, to be fair they might be right to some extent. However, technology has provided a level playing ground, culture and beliefs haven’t yet found a way to stand in the face of that.

The major stakeholders in the state include Startup Kano, an organization that offers incubation, acceleration, co-working space and digital marketing. They are a host to most of the inspiring and educative events tailored towards training, enlightening and grooming tech savvy individuals and entrepreneurs. There is hardly a week that goes by without some meetup, workshop, boot camp or hackathon taking place at their hub. Talking of hubs, we also have Blue Hub, solely owned and operated by a woman. Maryam Lawan Gwadabe, a certified software engineer and ethical hacker from Middlesex University Dubai. Her hub is actively involved with the coaching and mentoring of kids and women, she has represented and gone for evangelism across the country on the need for women inclusivity in tech. There is also the likes of DD Hub which hosted the last Facebook Developer Circle Kano meetup, where they talked about some Facebook technologies including React, React Native and Account Kit.

Flexisaf is not only an edtech company but also a key stakeholder in the state. Its sponsors a lot of meetups and events. It has a program Kid Coders that teaches kids how to think creatively and code. Did I mention it’s free? Developer community, Code Pyramid which was started by some visionary and forward thinking youths have held about 10 consecutive monthly meetups since they started in October 2016. Some of its Founders include Ahmed Idris, founder of the Northern Blog. Aminu Bakori a computer whiz kid and Mubarak Aminu, a 300 level student of Computer Engineering at Bayero University. The community is part of the Together with Google Program which allows them to host Google events with support from the country headquarters. They are also the official partners of Facebook Developer Community Kano, they hosted the first ever Bot party in state.

These developments are a resounding reminder that the goldmine is where people do not often see. Stakeholders, investors and companies could reap tremendously from early engagement with this promising but virgin ecosystem. The key is in empowerment, nurturing and grooming. Some of the successes of the community is too large to be noted in this article. I hope to spit them out piece by piece so that the world will know that just like the era of the great groundnut pyramids, a new era of tech dynasty is brewing, and its coming from Kano.


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