By Mmaduabuchi Onwumelu
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Anambra State ICT Agency, Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata, was among the five pioneer members of the Board of Innovation Support Network, ISN, at the 2023 Annual ISN Gathering.
Mr Agbata stepped down as member of the Board after four years of laying the foundations for the successful unbundling of Innovation in Nigeria at the ISN Annual Gathering with the theme, ”Unlocking Potentials: Collaborating for Growth and Impact”.
Day One of the August event, according the programme schedule, witnessed the Annual General Meeting, AGM, held at the Nigeria Army Resource Centre, Asokoro; Day Two was the Annual Gathering at Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Central Business District; while Day Three was for the Abuja Ecosystem Tour.
He was elected to the Board in 2019 as a key builder of the ISN which is a conglomeration of innovation hubs that are avenues for budding entrepreneurs, usually referred to as start-ups, as well as executing other important projects for the deepening of technology across the country.
Having served on the board for four years now, Agbata has been instrumental to the evolution of the plethora of innovation hubs in Nigeria today, driving the agenda of a mission to create jobs, stimulate socio-economic growth, leveraging science, technology and innovation by supporting member hubs and their communities with capacity, knowledge, finance, network and enabling policies.
It is notable that ISN Hubs which started off with just about 75 innovation hubs in 2019 has grown to a community of over 150 plus hubs, promoting Capacity Building among Hubs through National and Regional Knowledge Share Gatherings, Demo Days and Meet-the-Funders Events.
For Agbata, who served as Director of Marketing and Acting Chairman of the Board, it has been an amazing four-year journey of innovation and leadership.
Looking back at the journey, Agbata observed that what began as a visionary idea, had blossomed into a thriving force for innovation, expressing delight to have been part of the individuals who contributed to its formation and expansion, alongside other board members and the 75 founding hubs.
‘I am even more excited to pass the torch and witness the continued development of this esteemed organization. The journey actually began in October 2018 at the AfriLabs annual gathering which was held in Dar-es-Salem, Tanzania. I am glad that a simple discussion among the Founder, TechnoVision, Tomi Davies; AfriLabs board member, Bernard Chiira; Founder, Innovation Growth Hub, Daniel Chinagozi; Founder, Olutu Square, Bruce Lucas and I, led to the creation of a WhatsApp group, called, ”Hub Owners Village”, which we decided would be a platform to converge all hubs in the country.
‘Traction then began in 2019 after a meetup at the Techstars’ Start up weekend in Aba with Daniel Chinagozi of Innovation Growth Hub; Bruce Lucas of Olotu Square; Edward Esene of Plus Innovation Hub and I from GoDo Hub where we discussed again about the need to restart the conversation and help other hub owners rethink their models so as to deepen innovation in Nigeria.
That conversation led to a renewed vigour that made sure the light of ISN never died again. The fall out of this was an initial meeting of a few hubs at Impact Hub Lagos and from here a decision was taken to formally register with the CAC. The Hub Owners Village was not available at the CAC and this led us to rethink the name which eventually became the Innovation Support Network (ISN) Hubs.
‘The mission of ISN Hubs is to foster collaboration, inspire and support Nigerian Hubs, towards building a diversified economy that promotes the development of technology, innovation and the early stage entrepreneurship ecosystem in Nigeria.
‘Our clear goal was to reshape and deepen the footprints of the tech industry through collaborative efforts and forward-thinking strategies, engaging with local, national and international policy makers on the role of hubs in the support of job creation, social and commercial ventures in the Nigerian economy.
‘From the initial discussions to the strategic planning sessions, I can still recall the passion that propelled our determination to bring this vision to life. I am indeed honoured to have served on the board that created the framework on which our organization now rests,’ a delighted Agbata gushed.
He expressed appreciation for the unwavering support of his fellow board members, their personnel and the network of partners and stakeholders who shared in the board’s vision.
‘Looking back at these four transformative years, and the lessons learnt, I can clearly say that leadership isn’t solely about making decisions but more about listening, learning, and adapting to situations and events as they arise. These imbibed skills have contributed to my success in the tech space, especially within the government circle where I now serve as the MD/CEO of the Anambra State ICT Agency.
‘This is the era of innovation and unprecedented disruption, hence, the demand for continuous innovation and my journey has shown me that resilience, agility, and a willingness to embrace change are key elements for success.
‘And now, a new chapter opens for our organization with the transition of leadership; the incoming directors, all possessing proven skills in diverse fields. I have no doubt that their expertise and passion, will help propel our legacy of innovation, inspiring the team to reach even greater heights.
‘As I step down from my role as a founding board member, I do so with a heart full of gratitude. I feel blessed to have contributed to an organization that has made a meaningful impact in the innovation ecosystem.
‘The journey continues, and I am excited to see the organization flourish under new leadership, continuing its mission to drive innovation, collaboration, and positive change.
‘I urge us not to relent in supporting entrepreneurs who are trying to solve problems and build solutions for the benefit of our dear country,’ he urged.