Business clustering is a common trend all over the world. With similar businesses located in a common geographical location, members of these clusters typically gain competitive advantage and increased productivity as they enjoy; common infrastructures, more networking opportunities that can spur innovations, access to information amongst other benefits.
The tech industry is also home to clusters; with Silicon valley as the most reputable tech cluster worldwide and YabaCon Valley (a name that is still controversial), as the most popular in Nigeria. Housing a significant number of businesses and startups, Yaba area in Lagos state, is considered as the leading hub for high-tech innovation and development in Nigeria.
However, whether a Yaba ecosystem really exists or we only imagined it, the future of the IHQ project that birthed the Yaba cluster looks bleak.With more and more tech companies migrating from the area and others sprouting up in other areas in Lagos and other parts of Nigeria, one would wonder just how good a home Yaba is for tech companies. Konga, SureGifts, iDEA Hub, Andela; these are some of the popular businesses that have broken away from Yaba. Other companies like iRoko and Cregital didn’t even start their businesses inYaba.
Yet while some envisioned that Yaba would never make it as the leading tech hub in Nigeria eventually, others think that the dwindling Yaba dream is still worth fighting for. But is there really anything to fight for?
I've invested a lot in hyping and making Yaba the Nigeria tech eco-system cluster and we can't just let it disappear without a fight.
— Mark Essien (@markessien) April 18, 2017
Do business clusters in Yaba really benefit from being in the space? So far YabaCon Valley still cannot boast of adequate infrastructures, there’s still no significant input from the institutions of higher learning in the area to technological innovations in Nigeria and other businesses located outside Yaba do not seem to be missing anything vital.
Perhaps, it is becoming clear that Silicon Valley simply cannot be replicated in Yaba and maybe it’s okay to look forward to more successful business clusters in other areas.
But do we really need a Silicon valley in Nigeria? In a world with improved communication channels, do businesses especially those in the tech industry really need to rely on close proximity to thrive and collaborate. Can’t people just start tech businesses wherever they deem fit without forcing a cluster like what was done with YabaCon Valley?
Maybe if we let clusters in the Nigerian tech industry grow naturally without any interference, we may end up with one that is truly beneficial.