It’s first of all a cultural problem. That’s because everything evolves from a culture. I would want to ask a question? Have you ever seen a big corporation that is predominantly owned by a Cross Riverian or an Akwaibomite, and has outlived the first-generation Management or Owners?
(2) It’s a political problem because there is a total lapse in leadership in the South-south region of Nigeria. Majority of our political class here do not know their right from left. They don’t understand how to formulate policies and to what end. So they have no policy direction geared toward SUSTAINABLE development.
(3) It’s an elitist flaw because the way we understand and interpret enlightenment, wealth and success is greatly retrogressive. When you live in an environment where people think that success means having what others cannot have or cannot afford – building an economic distinction using poverty and illiteracy and/or misinformation as a tool – then those sets of people can obviously not fund a tech start-up or any start-up for that matter.
(4) It’s an economic problem because there is what is called the factor context. Five factors drives private sector development and economic growth:
1. The Political/ Social Climate: the way we structure and play our politics have huge influence on economic growth. Because this is one of the indices that big corporations and multinationals look out for to make an investment decision. Do we have a working democracy optimised by the rule of law? Are there effective and aggressive Civil Society Organisations and engagements? Or, are we still arresting people like Agba Jalingo for speaking up? By what process do the people hold their government accountable?
2. Openness and Accessibility: what does it take to do business in Nigeria in general, talk less of Calabar? What are the entry requirement? What are the processes and how easy and fast can one get things done? Did you know that for 3 months now since my friend filed for business name registration, CAC have not been able to register that name? Can you imagine that? Also, is there a level-playing-field where everyone can compete based on innovation, reasoning and intelligence and not cronyism?
3. Product Market: how developed is the product market? What does it take, or how easy is it to patent your inventions and innovations. Does copyright work in Nigeria at all? How many ideas and products have been patented in Nigeria? Are there standards for designs, product development, unique identities, etc. Are you aware that after I registered Skil-Hub Leading-edge Ltd. in 2016, CAC have registered others like “Skilhob International”, Skilhubs Services”, etc? But there is a provision that prohibits similar name registration or even the risk of sounding the same. But there is no system for checking such. So, how do I claim damages or whatsoever now? Okay; after Mark registered Facebook, have you heard of “Facebooks” or “Facebuk”? Think about this.
4. Labour Market: do we have the needed talents to sustain and optimise our tech innovations? Can you walk into Unical and source for a talent in Computer Science Department for your tech development? How many accredited training institutions are training for today’s knowledge economy in Cross River or Akwa Ibom States? Are there strong Labour Unions that government respect?
5. Capital Market: how easy is it to access funds in Cross River or Akwa Ibom State? Do we have VCs there? Are there Equity Investment Institutions there? What debts and credit facilities are available? Do government guarantee loans for start-ups in Cross River State. Is there a place where MSMEs are actively planned for and developed? Are there Risk Management Services providers in Cross River or Akwa Ibom States?
In conclusion, it is possible to have a Start-up Hub were ideas are developed at least to attain a Minimum Viable Product, but who is to fund, considering my submission at the beginning of this write-up? A company can start and survive in Cross River State and/or Akwa Ibom State. It can also scale from there to other parts of the country. But here is the challenge, it will take the company doing one of two things, or, they takes the third option which is very common:
1. Change the context: they will have to provide for what is lacking in the state – as it bothers some of the factor contexts – to enable them thrive. Or,
2. Adapt: adjust themselves to the reality in the State if it will enable them thrive.
3. Stay away.
The last option has always been the best option for businesses and individuals like you, Efio-Ita Nyok, Solomon Nkam Ubi, Johnson Ibiang, Ukorebi Esien, and me. Stay way – save your limited resources and energy.