By Patrick O. Okigbo III
Kingsley (Kings Eze) is a revolutionary although he would grimace when he reads this description because he does not see himself as one. In his mind, he is just a guy who is excited by solving problems. But really, what would you call someone who does not believe in impossibilities; whose ideas are all about disrupting the normal in a bid to solve big problems in our society?
Ten years ago, he set out to build a software development company that would create software in Nigeria that can be used to solve problems across the globe. “And we will do it with ordinary, everyday people because I believe that there is nothing that can’t be learnt”.
That company, Tenece (www.tenece.com), has become one of the leading tech companies in Nigeria with strong competencies in the provision of critical services in fintech, software engineering, enterprise security and infrastructure, communication technology, e-business development, government transformations, systems integration, IT consulting, process reengineering, and many more. Tenece has successfully completed over 527 projects, employs almost 300 staff, and has three offices in Nigeria (Enugu, Lagos, and Abuja), and three international offices (Dubai, Ghana, and Ethiopia).
Challenged by the growing number of unemployed Nigerians, “Sir K” started Genesys Tech Hub as a place to train young tech enthusiasts, incubate their ideas, and support tech startups. His enduring vision is of young Nigerians who, with a laptop and internet connection, can sit in any part of Nigeria to provide services to the global market. In the four years of its existence, Genesys, under the direct leadership of Nnamdi “Namo” Anika, has graduated over 250 young software developers, trained over 900 tech enthusiasts, funded 6 startups, and supported 35 small and medium scale enterprises.
***Let’s Light a Flame***
On Friday, November 16, 2018, Genesys gathered over 1,000 people to participate in the 2018 GENESYS IGNITE that was held at the serene Enugu Lifestyle and Golf City (www.enugulifestyleandgolfcity.com). The event was a celebrate of ideas. Many illustrious Nigerians were there to lend their voices to this iroko that has sprouted in Southeast Nigeria. The erudite Frank Nweke II (two-time federal minister in Nigeria and former Director General of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group) was the Chairman of the occasion. Osita Chidoka (former Corps Marshall and Minister of Aviation) presented the keynote address which focused on his philosophy of “Uche, Uchu, na Egwu Chukwu” (Ability to reason, Grit, and Values). Mac Atasie (CEO of Nextzon) presented on how to “Create a Knowledge-driven Economy”. Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata, Jnr. Co-Founder of GoDo.ng moderated a panel discussion on “Innovation in a Knowledge Driven Economy”.
The big discovery for me was the rapper, M.I. (Jude Abaga). I have always enjoyed his socially-conscious rap songs but I never appreciated the depth of his intellect. He used his song, “One Naira”, as context for his presentation titled, “Collaboration: A Tool for National Development”. He wove an interesting story that had a cast of characters including Rihanna, Waje, Omawumi, Bill Gates, Audu Maikori, Ebuka (of Big Brother fame), Greg Hendershott (of Cakewalk fame), and our Igbo brothers in Alaba market. Genesys has to do all of us a favour and post the video of that talk.
***Catch them Young***
The highlight of the afternoon was the presentation of awards to the winners of the 2018 Young Innovators Challenge. Earlier in the years, Genesys had trained over 200 students from eleven (11) secondary schools on the concepts of computational thinking, algorithms, data processing, and logical problem solving. After the training, two (2) students from each of the schools participated in an inter-school tech competition centred on collaborative problem solving using basic programming techniques. The top three winning schools were University Secondary School, Enugu Campus (first prize), Shalom Science and Technical Academy, Enugu (second prize), and Command Secondary School, Enugu (third prize). The winners received prizes ranging from laptops, coding kits, and desktop computers for their schools. However, all the students who participated in the final competition were brought up on stage to a resounding applause. These kids could be the future especially as they are lucky to have Genesys Tech Hub in their city.
Similarly, university undergraduate students participated in “Hacktober”, a software development hackathon that sought to build their skills in software engineering, and to create a community of young tech enthusiasts. The top three winning universities were Federal University of Technology, Owerri (First prize – N200,000), University of Nigeria, Nsukka (Second prize – N100,000), and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (Third prize – N100,000).
The grand finale of the event was the award of $15,000 each to the top two startup ideas from the Class of 2018. Genesys had received over 300 submissions on startup ideas. These were narrowed down to 12 ideas following a rigorous selection process. Genesys provided support to the 12 teams to finetune their ideas before a final selection was made. The top two teams that received the seed investment of $15,000 were LawyerApp and GreenAge Technologies. LawyerApp aims to provide access to justice to a large number of Nigerians who can’t afford the high legal fees by building a community of lawyers, students, firms, recruiters, and professional organizations that are committed to the same goal. GreenAge Technologies is an indigenous manufacturer of intelligent solar inverters.
***Disrupt and Create***
One of the other ideas I found particularly interesting is www.Partzshop.com. In a chat with the CEO of the company he said to me that “We will bring all the traditional auto parts markets to the web. We will make it easy for you to buy all types of auto spare parts including full engine from the comfort of your home, with all the guarantees and assurances you require.” I am keeping a keen eye on them.
By the time Kingsley invited me to the stage, he asked that I shelf the topic Namo had asked to speak on, “Built to Last”. He asked that I just speak from the heart to the young people. I knew what he meant. I covered the microphone and asked him if I could go personal, he nodded his approval. I used some of Kingsley’s personal stories to encourage the young people to dream. I told them that they are the only ones who can limit their dreams. I assured them that they can have whatever they want out of life if they can see it (dream it) and are willing to put in the required work.
As we walked out of the tent where the event was hosted, into the cool afternoon breeze of Enugu Lifestyle and Golf City, I could not help but notice the energy of the young people as they clicked away at their selfies and engaged with one another. I felt a sense of purpose and self-assuredness in the handful of young people I interacted with. They seemed to truly believe that tech would offer them a route out of the bleak reality that is today’s Nigeria. I wondered if this is the “revolution” that Kingsley was hoping to trigger. I know that tech could do for them what it has done in other parts of the world. I prayed that there would be more organisations like Tenece/ Genesys that can work with and empower these young Nigerians to create that society they wish to live in.
- Patrick O. Okigbo III wrote this piece from Enugu