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Startup Companies on the Rise in Nigeria


Nigeria is home to a growing number of technology companies and young business leaders.

Some business leaders have been seeking government help for their startup companies. Recently, several young entrepreneurs competed for a chance to tell President Muhammadu Buhari about their companies.

Nigeria’s technology sector is growing, in part, because of ambitious entrepreneurs like Angel Adelaja, a Nigerian American. She is chief executive officer of a company called Fresh Direct Nigeria. It seeks to reduce the country’s dependence on food imports by growing cabbage and other vegetables in containers.

“We take a 20-foot container that you would put a car in to ship and we kit it with hydroponic farming technology and we farm vertically. And we're growing premium produce -- vegetables, cabbage, lettuce -- so many different things inside the containers.”

First Direct Nigeria is designed for the expanding class of health conscious people who live in the city.

A business called Grit Systems Engineering manufactures a device for measuring energy use. The company is the idea of Ifedayo Oludapo.

“I am the founder of Grit Systems and what we make is a web-enabled multisource energy monitoring device -- kind of like a utility meter, but it measures power consumption from all the different power sources you have, which is a big deal in an under-electrified environment like Nigeria.”

Emma Okene leads Tracology, another Nigerian company. He and his team created a bar code that is placed on the front gate of a person’s home. By using a device that reads bar code information, waste collection crews will be able to know if the home owner has paid for their services.

“Once the utility provider comes to the house all he has to do is just scan this bar code and he knows in real time whether you've paid for that waste or whatever service he wants to offer you and he renders it.”

A total of 30 tech entrepreneurs competed for the chance to meet with the Nigerian president and vice president. Three were chosen, including Emma Okene of Tracology. He won a prize of more than $8,000.

Last week, the Nigerian economy entered into a recession for the first time in more than 20 years. Government revenue is sharply reduced because of the drop in oil prices worldwide. So the government is interested in supporting technology companies, hoping they may be able to fuel the economy.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was at the competition last week. He spoke at the end of his first visit to Nigeria.

“You know, this trip has really blown me away by the, the talent of the entrepreneurs and developers in this country and by the focus on building something that's gonna make a difference and gonna make a change. I think that if you keep on doing this you're not only gonna shape Nigeria and all of Africa, but the whole world.”

Nigerian government officials hope one of the startup companies can be as successful as Facebook.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Chika Oduah reported this story from Abuja, Nigeria for VOANews.com Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

entrepreneur – n. a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money

sector – n. an area of an economy; a part of an economy that includes certain kinds of jobs

ambitious – adj. having a desire to be successful, powerful or famous

kit – v. British to give (someone or something) the clothing or equipment needed for a particular activity

hydroponic – adj. a method of growing plants in water rather than in soil

premium – adj. of high or higher than normal quality

consumption – n. the use of something (such as fuel)

bar code – n. a group of thick and thin lines that is placed on a product so that a computer can get the price of the product and other information about it

scan – v. to use a special machine to read something on a computer or other electronic device

render – v. to give (something) to someone; to perform a service

revenue – n. money that is collected for public use by a government through taxes

focus – n. a subject that is being discussed or studied; the subject on which people’s attention is focused

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