• Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

How Wema Bank’s Hackaholics is aiding innovations in Nigeria’s tech & digital space

Oseni seeks bridging of MSMEs’ funding gap, managerial skills

Innovation has proven to be the driving force of the digital age and has propelled humanity into uncharted territories. The relentless pursuit of novel ideas holds the power to change the world, and Nigeria, like many nations, is a fertile ground for innovation.

The values embedded in innovation and technology are immeasurable as they foster economic growth, generate jobs, and provide solutions to pressing issues in education, healthcare, and infrastructure.

The impact of high-quality innovation is profound, altering the way we live, work, and connect with the world. It’s a testament to the transformative potential of innovation and the significance of technology in our lives.

In this dynamic digital landscape, global statistics on digital innovations reveal the ongoing technological revolution. From artificial intelligence to renewable energy, innovation is reshaping industries and societies worldwide. It’s no longer a luxury but a necessity, leaving its footprint on a global scale.

Nigeria’s journey in innovation and technology has been a blend of promise and challenge. While the nation boasts of a dynamic and youthful population overflowing with creative potential, it has grappled with hurdles on the road to technological transformation. The innovative spirit of its youth, universities, and startups has produced remarkable ideas, yet translating them into scalable solutions has proven to be intricate. Limitations like access to funding, a supportive ecosystem, and infrastructure have posed substantial challenges for startups and innovators, inhibiting the expansion of their ideas into sustainable businesses.

Hackaholics, Africa’s largest congregation of innovators, disruptors, regulators, policymakers, investors, and customers in the digital sphere, stands as a beacon of transformation. This event is more than just a catchy name; it epitomises the power of innovation and technology. It’s a platform where dreams find wings and become reality.

The Hackaholics initiative is a youth-focused competition aimed at providing a platform that enables innovators and startup founders with tech-driven or tech-enabled game-changing ideas and products to grow and blitz scale their ventures. With three previous editions and the recently concluded fourth edition in 2023, it isn’t merely an event or a typical tech conference. Hackaholics signify change, opportunity, and a brighter future for Nigerian startups, innovators, and the entire digital community.

Hackaholics offer not only a platform for startups but also the opportunity to secure vital funding and resources, functioning as a Launchpad for entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs scale their business ideas and contribute to the nation’s economic development. Hackaholics also demonstrate the transformative potential of innovation, illuminating the path to a brighter future for Nigeria’s youth and startups.

It’s important to emphasise that Hackaholics isn’t just an event; it’s a journey, a dream, and a testament to the power of innovation. Its vision extends beyond individual achievements; it envisions a future where technology transforms lives, startups rise as industry leaders, and Nigeria shines on the global tech stage. This dream encompasses not only personal success but also the prosperity, social development, and technological advancement of the entire nation.

In the course of this digital odyssey, Hackaholics has given birth to tech startups such as Moniepoint. Moniepoint has revolutionised the digital payments landscape in Nigeria, making financial transactions more accessible to the masses.

Another remarkable innovation that emerged from the Hackaholics is IRETI, a Nigerian health-tech startup dedicated to managing breast cancer in women. IRETI’s innovative approach to tackling a pressing global health concern earned it a cash prize of N15 million ($37,000) at the Hackaholics 4.0 event.

Jane Agbahowo, founder and creative director of IRETI, with the cash prize in hand, plans to further develop her healthcare solution, bringing it one step closer to addressing the global issue of breast cancer. Her story is not just a personal success but a testament to the transformative potential of innovation and the impact that platforms like Hackaholics can have on the lives of young visionaries.

Initiatives like Hackaholics have a ripple effect that extends far beyond individual success stories. Empowering youth, startups, and innovators sets in motion a wave of change that touches every corner of society. This wave boosts economic growth, creates job opportunities, and addresses critical issues like education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Startups like IRETI are the lifeblood of a dynamic economy and require support to thrive.

In the journey of innovation, a key contributor to Nigeria’s technological landscape is Wema Bank. As a consistent supporter of innovation over the years, Wema Bank has significantly shaped the nation’s tech ecosystem with initiatives like Hackhaolics. The commitment to nurturing talent and fostering creativity has been instrumental in bringing about meaningful transformation.

As Nigeria continues to embrace the digital revolution, its place in the evolving global technological landscape becomes more prominent. It’s a testament to the power of innovation and the pivotal role of technology in shaping the destiny of nations.

“As responsible citizens, we decided to play our part. This led us to focusing our Hackaholics events on campus locations across the country – the hotbeds of critical ideation and disruptive innovation. We believe that by providing the platform for our technically savvy and creative youth, we can help drive the much-needed transformation in our nation. We have gone beyond just banking the youth to giving them a launch pad for self-actualisation, said Moruf Oseni, managing director/CEO of Wema Bank.

Oseni stressed the need for cutting-edge insights, trends, and best practices in the tech industry towards the positive transformation of technology and innovation not just in Nigeria but across Africa.

He noted that the quest to empower lives through innovation, to a whole new level, would place the continent on the path of growth and development.

“All hands must be on deck to bridge more prevalent gaps in the growth of technology in Africa and in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by creating more viable opportunities for income generation, employment, capacity building, improved standards of living and the complete development of the African technology landscape.”

Oseni added that a unique blend of traditional banking expertise, and technology embedded deeply in the bank’s system has afforded them the opportunity to support the growth of the tech ecosystem in Nigeria.

“We also recognise that any economy that is serious about sustainable economic and social development must pay serious attention to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. Entertainment and sports have put Nigeria on the global landscape in a positive light; but they cannot help to predict technology and infrastructure deficits that will see Nigeria achieve its true potential, he said”

The top banker further noted that the scale of the opportunities at the intersection between finance and technology are too immense for any single player to take on, noting that with Wema’s unique blend of core traditional banking expertise and technology, it is positioned to help and support the growth of the tech ecosystem in Nigeria.

According to him Hackaholic’s mission is to provide a stage for entrepreneurs and innovators with transformative, tech-driven concepts to bring their ideas to fruition and refine their skills.

Hackathons are tech projects, which bring together software developers and other digital creators to design solutions for everyday challenges. Every successful hackathon harvests new and impactful solutions that will drive business ideas and scale the heights of technology in today’s world.

“We remain confident that through collaboration, we can continue to expand the frontiers of technology, solving our most bedeviling problems as a nation and finally unlocking inclusive and sustainable growth. Our goal as a bank is to avail innovators, creative thinkers, and software developers the opportunity to convert their visionary concepts into winning solutions, which will be nurtured into marketable software applications.

“Along with awarding creators of the best solutions, the Hackaholics would improve skills and re-echo the bank’s passion to build a community of innovators working constantly to bring safer, more convenient and profitable banking to customers through fast and easy software solutions.”

With Hackaholics, Wema Bank pulls together start-ups and young tech professionals to develop digital and computerised solutions that will alleviate financial, institutional and social challenges.

Participants analysed the given problem areas, strategise, brainstorm and develop solutions that will be screened by a reliable team of judges.

Oseni said: “After the successful establishment of ALAT, Wema Bank went a step further in its commitment to championing innovation by going beyond simply providing innovative solutions to further empower more people to become innovators in their own rights. This is the birth story of Hackaholics, Wema Bank’s youth and start-up focused initiative aimed at providing a platform for entrepreneurs and innovators with game-changing, tech-driven ideas and products, to bring their ideas to life.”

He added that since the first edition of Hackaholics in 2019, over 300,000 Nigerians have leveraged the iconic platform to build their tech skills, pitch their innovative ideas and transform these ideas into viable products that sublimely refine and upgrade processes in many aspects of life.

“Four editions strong, Hackaholics have recorded a massive applicant growth rate of 400 percent, creating more opportunities with each edition and seamlessly uniting key players and innovators across Nigeria, to provide ground-breaking sustainable solutions to real-life problems, using technology and innovation.

“Touring over 30 universities nationwide, Hackaholics has become a beacon of hope to young Nigerians across Nigeria; giving them a platform to challenge themselves and do the seemingly impossible.”

Tunde Mabawonku, executive director, retail and digital business, at Wema Bank, said that the Hackaholics Digital Summit transcends boundaries to unite digital innovators, visionaries, and industry leaders from across Nigeria. “It’s all about harnessing the collective potential of startup founders to redefine the boundaries of what’s possible in the digital age”.

According to him, the theme for the 2023 Hackaholics encapsulates the very essence of the bank’s innovation programme. “It embodies our sheer belief in a world where change is only constant. Our ability to reimagine and disrupt the status quo is what sets us apart,” Mabawonku said.

The impact of innovation and technology is profound, with boundless potential to reshape industries, drive economic growth, and improve the quality of life. Nigeria’s journey in the realm of innovation and technology is remarkable, and the nation’s continued embrace of the digital revolution offers limitless possibilities. It’s a journey that promises a brighter, more innovative future not only for Nigeria but for the entire world.

While the path has had its challenges, the spirit of innovation remains unwavering. The road ahead may be winding, but the destination is a brighter, more innovative future. As we navigate the complexities of innovation and technology, the power of collaboration, exemplified by Hackaholics, serves as a guiding light. It’s a testament to what we can achieve when we come together to support the dreams of our youth and startups.