May 21, 2020

Jega of ICT: The Entrepreneur that won’t stop building local talents and community

Jega of ICT: The Entrepreneur that won’t stop building local talents and community
Mohammed Ibrahim Jega

By Dominic Barcity

There is a big chance that you already know the entrepreneur, Mohammed Ibrahim Jega. It does not matter whether you are an active or observing member of the Nigerian tech scene, where he has invested most of his efforts for the past ten years.

If you did not know Jega as the man who is either speaking at an international conference or one at home in Nigeria, then you will know him as a community man. He may be known to dip his hands in many technology interests, from fintech and project management to block-chain, but his contributions to building a thriving tech community in Nigeria, and Northern Nigeria in particular, is perhaps what he is better known for.

In 2016 he co-founded StartUp Arewa, an ecosystem focused on supporting media and technology startups to grow into healthy enterprises. The platform, through its partnership with the Bilyak Funding Program, also helps startup founders receive funding and early-stage investment.

Since the ecosystem was founded, the entrepreneur has facilitated over 20 boot camps involving more than 1000 startup innovators and civil society groups in Northern Nigeria.

When Jega is not running his numerous business interests, he is teaming up with other founders and state governments to train and bring more people into the startup talent pool. One of such efforts led to the birth of the mAcademy, an edtech project that has since received support from telecommunications giant MTN Nigeria, in February, 2020.

In 2018, Jega was announced as one of the 28 startup founders who made the list of Nigeria’s Presidential Advisory Group on technology and creativity.

There are a lot of problems yet to be solved in Nigeria and the country cannot continue to import solutions. Local individuals have greater ability to solve local problems because they are equipped with an insider context. However, when there is no local capacity to solve specific and technical problems, those problems will continue to linger.

Northern Nigeria, for example, has less than 50% literacy rate on average, according to a 2014 National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) survey. For proper context, if less than 50% of the total population in the north do not have formal education, what share of the percentage would be equipped with the right technical skills to thrive in a rapidly-changing digital world?

Mohammed Ibrahim Jega is not waiting for anyone to provide that answer. Instead, he is making sure that when anyone decides to seek answers to the aforementioned question, they would find a rather encouraging one.

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A lot of people know Mohammed Ibrahim Jega as the founder of StartUp Arewa. But even more, people know and associate him with the fast-rising international payment platform, VoguePay, where he currently holds a director position.

His popularity is not surprising. Because for over five years, he has been pushing the VoguePay brand. Jega may describe StartUp Arewa as his second name, but his face is the bold VoguePay “V” and is as calming as the blue in the brand’s colour: See Jega, see VoguePay.

The online payment processor was founded in 2012. Since then it has grown to become one of the most reliable payment processors in Nigeria and Africa at large, with thousands of merchants from across 4 continents. VoguePay presently processes millions of dollars worth of transactions daily. At Voguepay we see innovation from the point of solving customers pain point.

Jega has an uncanny knack for spotting and executing business opportunities. His latest sojourn in entrepreneurship is the Blockchain firm, Domineum, which he co-founded with another entrepreneur, Geoffrey Weli-Wosu. But what is he doing differently this time?

Introducing bespoke block-chain and software as a service solution into the real estate sector, land department and related government agencies.
Founded in 2017, Domineum aims to disrupt several sectors in the emerging markets and leap-frog the current infrastructure with distributed ledger (blockchain) technology. Domineum is the first block-chain-backed land registry and real estate firm in Nigeria.

Mohammed Ibrahim Jega

In a country where there is a lack of proper documentation of landed assets by the government, this startup offers a solution to this problem by taking registration processes, title and certificate of occupancy issuance to the web. This solution takes the task of worrying about the locations of landed property and their owners away from the government, thereby saving time and precious resources.

According to a 2019 report, Domineum helped African governments save almost $5 million. The Domineum is currently implementing the Cargo Tracking Notes (CTN) solution in Sierra Leone which delivers a one-stop-shop platform needed by Shippers, Freight Forwarders, Loaders, Carriers, and charterers to complete the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN) process, with the ability to make payment via the platform – with an underlying infrastructure delivering the necessary security rigour for such sensitive systems and data.

Presently, the company operates in 5 countries including Nigeria and Sierra Leone, with the Company Headquarters is situated in London, UK while its research and development (R&D) unit are located in San Francisco, USA and the technology resource centre in Tallinn, Estonia.
Besides his responsibility as co-founder, Jega is currently leading the startup’s business development efforts.

The serial entrepreneur, Mohammed Ibrahim Jega, has won multiple awards from different reputable bodies, both in Nigeria and outside of the country. Some of his honours include ‘Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year’- The African Disruptive Technology Conference & Awards Ceremony, London (2019), “Techpreneur of the Year” — Nigerian Social Media Summit and Awards (2019), “Champion of IT Startup Ecosystem” — Africa Digital Heroes Award (2019), “Continental Technology Personality of the Year” — Jet Age National Builders Award, Kigali (2019), “Presidential Award For Youth Development” — Nigeria Internet Registration Association, NiRA (2017), “Entrepreneur of the Year” — African Youths Award (2016), and more.
In 2017, Jega was announced as one of the “Most Influential Young Nigerians” by Avance Media Group in Ghana. Also in the same here he was listed among Top Twenty Northern Entrepreneurs under Forty.

Mohammed Ibrahim Jega may have a lot on his hands. However, there is one thing he is committed to always show up for: It is for community development and knowledge-sharing sessions. These sessions are probably where you know him from and he is not stopping anytime soon, as long as it continues to make the Nigerian and the Arewa tech scene grow.

The multiple award-winning entrepreneur is a Director at Silicon Valley-based The Founders Institute and presently sits on the board of organisations like The Organization of Blockchain Technology Users, KickCity, Africa Digital Voices, Women In Blockchain Nigeria and Young Innovators Nigeria.

Dominic Barcity is an editor at Reputation Poll International