Tijani told CNN that Zuckerberg’s visit would give Nigeria’s fledgling startup scene the shot in the arm it desperately needs.
“By coming here first, he’s given a lot of hope to young people here,” Tijani said.
He added that entrepreneurs like Zuckerberg were inspiring because his approach to Facebook
has never been about making a lot of money.
“It’s been about creating something that’s going to change the world and obviously if you do that, you are bound to reap the benefit,” Tijani said.
Idris Ayodeji -Bello, a tech entrepreneur in Nigeria, said, “Mark’s visit was a much needed external validation of the sweat and immense efforts, mostly unsung, of the young Nigerians who have kept at it. And it was heartwarming to see all the attention his visit got, even from some young people who are rarely excited by much beyond music and entertainment.”
Like a lot of entrepreneurs on the continent, the founders of CcHUB have been quietly plugging away before catching the attention of one of the world’s biggest tech founders.
Zuckerberg singled out their business because of their proven track record in building and incubating startups that tackle the country’s myriad social issues such as Lifebank, an app that transports blood to hospitals.
Another entrepreneur who met Zuckerberg was Adebayo Adegbembo, who runs Genii games, a platform to make it easier for kids to learn about African culture both in Nigeria and the diaspora. He said Zuckerberg learned a few words of Yoruba and spoke of his love of languages.
“To have Mark show that kind of interest in us is a huge stamp of approval,” Adegbembo said.
Tijani and his business partner had a vision of creating a tech business district and persuaded the government and a local cable provider to install fiber optic cables on their street providing affordable and fast Wi-Fi access to anyone within the hub’s vicinity. When they started there were five tech businesses, now there are 60 and the area attracts an increasing number of entrepreneurs.
During a Q& A streamed live on Facebook on Wednesday, Zuckerberg talked about plans to make the company’s tools and apps more affordable for SMEs in the country.
He added that he was proud of recently putting the Hausa language, largely spoken in northern Nigeria, on the platform and revealed plans to expand to other Nigerian languages.
Nigeria is the largest market in Africa for Facebook; 16 million Nigerians using the platform monthly, with 7 million logging onto the site daily: 97% of them on mobile, according to figures from the network.
Zuckerberg has also made no secret of his interest in Nigerian startups and other African tech industries.
In June, he invested millions of dollars in a Lagos-based startup called Andela via the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and in May he launched Free Basics, a partnership with a local telecoms provider, which allows people to browse websites for free, a very appealing prospect in a country where data prices can be prohibitively high.
But it appears to be more than just the numbers stacking up for Facebook and Zuckerberg. He has said he is in the country to listen and learn and take ideas back to California on how to support businesses across the continent. He’s also very interested in the creative partnerships and in exploring where tech and creativity intersect.
While in Lagos, he met with leading figures in Nigeria’s Nollywood film industry and talked about how the burgeoning industry could be a huge revenue driver for the country.
He said: “One of the things I am most excited about my trip to Lagos is going to check out Nollywood. Nollywood sounds like a national treasure and the ability to produce video content that is moving and emotional transcends boundaries and will help tell stories of the amazing innovation, engineering and culture to the whole world.”