Japanese Funding Boost for Nigerian Start-Ups at iHatch Incubation Programme

During the Cohort II Demo Day and Cohort III opening ceremony of the Idea Hatch (iHatch) incubation programme, three Nigerian start-ups secured significant seed funding totaling $37,000 from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). This initiative, in collaboration with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in Abuja, aligns with Nigeria’s digital economy agenda, aiming to cultivate innovative ideas into thriving entrepreneurial ventures.

At the event, the first, second, and third-placed start-ups were awarded $15,000, $12,000, and $10,000, respectively, reflecting the commitment of JICA to support promising ventures. Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the Director General of NITDA, highlighted that the iHatch programme offers a five-month intensive incubation period, guiding entrepreneurs through coaching, lectures, and boot camps to refine business ideas into scalable models, with a focus on youth, innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

The overarching goal of iHatch is to identify and empower young individuals with innovative business ideas, providing them with comprehensive training and mentorship to develop market-ready products. Abdullahi shared the success story of last year’s winners, who collectively raised $274,000 and created 179 jobs after receiving $15,000 each.

Additionally, plans were revealed to expand the iHatch training nationwide, covering all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), underscoring the potential impact on job creation and digital solutions for Nigeria.

Kazuyoshi Matsunaga, the Ambassador of Japan to Nigeria, acknowledged the burgeoning entrepreneurial activity in Nigeria, commending the resilience of startups in addressing critical social issues despite security challenges and infrastructure deficits. He emphasized Japan’s active support for Nigerian startups through various schemes, including iHatch, NINJA, and IICA, promoting collaboration between Japanese and Nigerian companies for innovation and economic growth.

Matsunaga stressed the importance of economic diversification, envisioning a brighter future for Nigeria by investing in startups and fostering a culture of innovation. He emphasized, “Startups are seen as catalysts for this transformation, bringing fresh ideas, innovative technologies, and new employment opportunities to the country.”

Furthermore, Matsunaga highlighted the role of J-Bridge, an IETRO scheme, in facilitating open innovation between Japanese and Nigerian companies, encouraging technology transfer, knowledge sharing, and joint product development. He urged Nigerian startups to learn not only Japanese technology and expertise but also business manners such as punctuality and the spirit of KAIZEN, which involves continuous improvement in all business functions.

Concluding his remarks, Matsunaga underscored economic diversification as essential for Nigeria’s continued growth and prosperity, emphasizing the need for sustained collaboration and innovation.

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