A Visit to Kano: Nigerian Youths & Tech

Blockchain founders hangout kano with Elsie Godwin, William phelps and Johnpaul Nwobodo

Last two weekends, I was in Kano. I was billed to speak at the Cardano/Adaverse Blockchain founders hangout where crypto enthusiasts and blockchain stakeholders were to discuss project ideas, business growth, and funding opportunities. 

The goal of the event was to drive the adoption of blockchain and encourage use cases that would drive the objectives and benefits of this technology.

It was my first time in Northern Nigeria and I had the privilege to peek into how youths from that part of the country interacted with and perceived technology. Also, a bit of culture shock here and there. Like, major hotels in Kano do not have breakfast included in their packages!  But I had a good time. 

Personally, I believe that one of Nigeria’s greatest assets is her people — the quality of mind, brilliance, intelligence, and creativity.

The event was insightful and my time in Kano was beautiful in a way that made my tummy flutter. But in this piece, I will be writing more about the event.

So here are some of my key takeaways:

Data Affordability

One of the key engagements for me was getting the attendees at the event to join us on our journey at Cassava Network to onboard web2 users to web3 through user-friendly products. While attempting to do this, I realised that they either didn’t have data or they were managing what they had by turning off their data intermittently.

In a 2021 report, Nigeria was ranked 19th among 72 countries in an affordability drivers index by a global coalition — the Alliance for Affordable Internet. For vibrant young people, Internet access is very important as we have seen the consequences for those kept offline and how they are digitally excluded in education, the economy, and communities. One of the best ways to drive Blockchain adoption is by driving blockchain education and affordable internet access is a major driver.

Subsidising data will go a long to drive education, adoption, and innovation.

Gender Representation

It is easy to lose touch with the level of work required to drive gender equality and inclusion in Nigeria. I admit that I fall short in this regard. With platforms like web3 Ladies, Cybersafe foundation, She Code Africa and so many other initiatives by women getting media traction, it is easy for one to assume that the work is covered. Unfortunately, there is a lot more work to be done.

The event in Kano had over 400 youths in attendance and gender representation was nothing close to being balanced as there were only 5 Ladies in attendance. Organisers of the event tried to recognise the presence of these ladies as well as encouraged them to actively participate in the conversation and in building the ecosystem. However, this is a wake-up call to all as we need to be intentional if we hope to close the gender gap.  

Nigerian youths are not lazy

After I checked out of the hotel on Sunday morning, a staff member of the hotel called to inform me that I had forgotten an item at the hotel. This item wasn’t important enough for me to go back but it was enough for him to figure out that I had been in Kano for a Cardano event. We got talking and I realised that the young man is a final year student at Bayero University, trades cryptocurrency, and is researching on how to become a blockchain developer alongside working part-time at the hotel.

He needed me to connect him to the Cardano team for possible training opportunities. This is one out of the many encounters I have had. For many of them, their mobile phones aren’t just another cool thing to have, it is necessary for them to connect and catch up on digital skills which will in turn position them for better job opportunities.

Northerners engage!

I have been around for quite some years and have attended and spoken at many events. Even though I am very selective of the events that I attend, this year, on average,  I have done 2 events each month. At this particular event, I couldn’t help but notice how engaged the audience was. It was a hall filled with people with rapt attention. They were not distracted by their phones or side talks. It was a clear case of “I came here for a purpose which must be met.” And I think this also translates to how they engage during campaigns and what turns out to be election results.

Nigeria Startup Act

While interacting with them and seeing how they engaged, the importance of statewide adoption of the Nigeria startup Act which was recently assented to by president Muhammadu Buhari became even clearer. There is a lot of work to be done and stakeholders must be ready to work with the government to create the much-needed enabling environment for the youths to build and grow the economy through innovation. 

I will end this with a quote by the SSA to President Buhari on Digital Economy, Osaretin Oswald Guobadia, “The next startup that will impact the world will start in an African Village.”

My trip to Kano restated what I have always believed, there is a whole lot of work to be done as regards blockchain adoption, and general technology adoption in the country, and we all have a role to play.

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