I’d like to bring to the fore a few tough questions that have implications for the long-term success of the Yaba Technology Cluster initiative; and these may need to be discussed concurrently with the other 7 Pillars of the Yaba Manifesto currently being developed. The first is: How will the initiative be funded in a sustainable manner every year? and the second; Who or what team will manage the day-to-day execution of the different ideas suggested across all threads? Both questions are important, because this is Nigeria where many good initiatives start out with laudable objectives but quickly develop a variety of strategic execution problems down the line and then they begin to atrophy.
In this light, I believe we need to be intentional about preserving the longevity of this initiative by answering both questions clearly. For me, here’s what I'd suggest our approach should be...
How will the initiative be funded in a sustainable manner every year?
At the end of the one-month open discussion period here, I suggest that the Yaba Technology Cluster initiative should metamorphose into a not-for-profit membership organization registered with Corporate Affairs Commission as this model has useful financial benefits for funding the execution of the ideas that will be adopted in the final Manifesto; here are some of the financial benefits of this model:
1. Individual Membership Dues (between N2m - N10m+ Annually):
If the initiative charges say N10,000 as membership dues per annum and with registration rate of up to 1,000 members from Yaba & environs for example, the newly registered Yaba Technology Cluster CSO could raise up to N10m annually for administration from this source. At the very least this would (1.) Cover the cost of administration (2.) Distribute responsibility/ownership of the initiative across all current and future members.
2. Corporate Membership Dues & Sponsorship (N500m+ Annually):
The resulting organization could also have Corporate Membership levels which would be for companies who either want to support the initiative as part of their CSR efforts or because they stand to gain from a vibrant technology cluster in the long run. The lowest membership level being N100k and the highest being N10m (for example). Potential corporate members could include banks, venture capital firms, ISPs, oil companies, software giants, Media organizations, key manufacturing firms, global investment firms etc.
3. Pro-Bono Donations
The resulting organization could actively seek for pro-bono donations like events space, newspaper advertisements, Internet connections, etc. If properly executed, this could be a source of additional N5m - N30m in none-cash funding for the cluster’s activities.
4. Sector Specific Grants
From the likes of GIZ’s SEDIN, Omidyar, DFID programs in Naija etc. Again, depending on execution strategy, this could aggregate between N0m - N50m for cluster activities.
6. Yaba Cluster Branded Items
Sales of novelty items, branded T-Shirts, use of the Yaba Cluster Brand at events, lapels, Diaries etc
Moving on to the next core question...
Whom or what team will manage the day-to-day execution of the different ideas suggested across all threads?
I’d suggest that the execution framework/management structure for the Yaba Technology Cluster initiative should consist of 5 levels:
Level 1: Board of Trustees
This will consist of approximately (10) members
- Key Influencers in government (3)
- Key Influencers in the private sector (2)
- Key Influencers/lobbyists conversant with governments & private sector in each of these five (5) continents - Europe, Asia, North America, Australia, South America etc
Having a very, very strong BOT will help open major doors for Yaba Technology Cluster and facilitate execution of key suggestions put forth by volunteers.
Level 2: Executive Board
This will consist of at least a chairman, vice, secretary and all heads of standing committees. The responsibility of the executive board will be to oversee execution of all components of the Cluster’s Plan of Action assigned to Standing committees & Special Purpose Vehicles to be setup.
Members of the EB will have a fixed tenure to execute the broad vision of the cluster; at the end of their tenure an Annual General Assembly will be convened, during which an election to pick the next set of leaders will be conducted. Having this tenured mechanism in place will provide an additional impetus for nominated cluster leaders to deliver tangible results during their tenure for the benefits of all individuals and startups in the Yaba Tech Cluster.
Level 3: Standing Committees
Committees for each pillar (Talent, Infrastructure, R&D, Policy, Funding, Culture, SmartCity) will consist of current Team Leads and their volunteers and will be responsible for executing suitable cluster ideas either as SPVs (in partnership with other organizations) or as stand-alone projects.
Level 4: General Assembly
This will consist of all dues-paying members who will be able to make inputs on an ongoing basis and set strategic direction for the management of the cluster to execute.
Level 5: Support Staff
This will consist of paid staff who run the day-to-day activities of the Yaba Tech Cluster under the strategic direction of the Executive Board. The support staff may carry out activities like book-keeping, data analysis, meeting bookings, maintaining, seamless communications etc…
If this membership model for the Yaba Tech Cluster initiative is adopted, tested and found to be successful, it can be replicated across other tech hubs/clusters across other states in the country within the next 10 years.