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Lagos: The Cases come visiting, by Tolu Ogunlesi



AOL co-founder and one-time Chairman/CEO Steve Case and his wife Jean were in Lagos recently for an introduction to the city’s burgeoning technology start-up community. Their ‘Case Foundation’, founded in 1997 (and which Jean runs) has been investing in African businesses and philanthropic initiatives for more than a decade.
Lagos was the final stop of a tour that included Nairobi, Accra and Lagos. In Lagos there were meetings and site visits (Andela, Printivo – if you’ve never heard of these names you have some catching up to do!) and lunches and dinners, and then there was a competition at the Co-Creation Hub in Lagos, hosted by Case Foundation in partnership with EchoVC and iDEA, and in which $55,000 was on offer.
I was able to attend only one of the events; a dinner reception hosted for Case by Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings and UBA at the HH office. I arrived late, so I missed seeing Dangote and Femi Otedola. I also missed the Cases, actually, they were leaving as I arrived. But I got a chance to still mingle around afterwards, as the drinks and canapes continued to flow.
I had a chat with Bilkiss Kola Abiola, founder of WeCyclers, a company that collects and manages recyclable waste across Lagos. It uses “cargo bicycles” to collect the waste from households, offering them in exchange special points redeemable for phone airtime, food, etc. It then sorts the waste and sells it to recycling companies.
Everyone is happy – households get help with waste disposal, and even actually earn benefits from their waste, recycling plants get a regular supply of raw material, and the city is a cleaner, more livable place. As for WeCyclers, it’s creating jobs, providing a useful service, and contributing to making Lagos a better place.

Read also: Lagos may join oil producing states

The day after the Elumelu reception WeCyclers won the $55,000 competition prize. “WeCyclers is a testament to the increasing democratisation of entrepreneurship, and yet another proof point that Africa is truly open for business,” Case said.
Exciting times to be young and alive and bursting with ideas in Lagos, already a bigger economy than all but a handful of African countries. Global attention is bound to rise, and with it the financial and professional rewards for creating useful and usable solutions to urban problems.
If you’re a problem solver, Lagos is probably right now one of the best cities to be challenging yourself in – it’s demographically and culturally very stimulating, and from a problem-solving/innovation frame of mind still mostly virgin territory!

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