On July 18, 2017, PCNI in conjunction with the Office of the Vice President, the International Committee on the Red Cross and the American University of Nigeria launched the North East Innovation Hub in Yola, Adamawa. The initiative was established as part of the Federal Government’s plan to establish innovation hubs across the country. The establishment of the hubs which will be driven by the Office of the Vice President will see each hub sited in each of the six geopolitical zones with additional ones each in Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory. These innovation hubs will provide high value skills training to empower youths for entrepreneurship and employment, create job opportunities, and enable interface between entrepreneurs and venture capital.
The North East Hub is designed to provide an enabling environment for young Nigerians including internally displaced persons to tackle the humanitarian and social challenges in the region through the development of innovative services and products. It is conceived to foster partnerships between creative (mostly young) citizens of the North-East zone, social entrepreneurs, subject matter experts, industry, the academia, businesses and public authorities. The hub is also in alignment with the Buhari Plan which stipulates the establishment of business and employability and incubation centres to drive job creation and entrepreneurial empowerment of men and women in the region.
With PCNI and the Office of the Vice President providing overarching support, the ICRC brings critical expertise having facilitated a similar programme in India, while AUN in Yola serves as the hub’s incubation facility. Messrs. Ife Adebayo and Mohammed Brimah, both of the Vice President’s Office, gave an overview of the plan for innovation hubs across the country. They stressed the administration’s determination to empower young Nigerians and asserted that the North East Innovation Hub will help drive the revitalization of the region’s economy. Mr. Ahmed Kezouini, the Deputy Coordinator of the ICRC emphasized that innovative solutions need not be costly to be effective. Rather, he said, they are the product of creative improvisation and must take cognizance of the sociocultural context in which the humanitarian challenges subsist. “We believed that Nigerians are in a better position to solve their problems, rather than [having solutions] forced on them.” Kezouini said.
In his remarks, the PCNI Vice Chair, Tijjani Tumsah who represented the Chairman, Lt. Gen. T.Y. Danjuma observed that innovation is one of the core values of the Buhari Plan and expressed the PCNI’s commitment to innovative solutions that empower the people of the North East and Nigeria in general. He also lauded the collaboration between PCNI and the Social Investment Office of the Office of the Vice President, the Adamawa State Government, AUN and ICRC, citing it as the sort of strategic synergy that PCNI wants to forge with critical stakeholders.
In the course of the one-day event, participants drawn from various humanitarian actors operating in the North East as well as IDPs from host communities and IDP camps identified the most pressing humanitarian challenges that will inform the projects of the innovation hub. The challenges highlighted as the most urgent were in the areas of food security and livelihood support. These identified challenges will be addressed in the next phase of the programme.