Kwara signs partnership deal with IHS Towers on innovation hub

The Kwara State Government has struck a deal with global telecoms giant IHS Towers on how to effectively deploy the Ilorin Innovation Hub to deliver on its core objectives of making the state the go-to place for innovation, technology and entrepreneurship as well as drive rapid socioeconomic growth.

“Today’s MOU signing represents a dream come true for our administration,” Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq said on Saturday shortly after signing the deal in Ilorin, the state capital, at an event attended by top government officials and IHS leaders led by its chief executive officer Mohammed Darwish.

“In an age increasingly dominated by digital natives whose lives revolve around technology as well as digital natives who live the realities of technology and the advantages it offers, we saw a need to lead in giving necessary skills and support to these important cohorts and leverage the same to build a stronger economy. Our objectives are to offer the tools, resources, and the environment that innovators and startups require to flourish, especially in the realm of digital and tech skills. By this, we see a future where Kwara sees job creation, poverty reduction, and improved well-being of the people.

“But having the right partnership and technical support to run this tech space is critical to achieving these objectives, efficiency and sustainability. This is why I am excited about this strategic partnership with the global tech giant IHS Towers to drive the project. With its proven expertise and legacy of innovation, HIS fits into our vision for this initiative.

“This is a partnership of huge mutual benefits. IHS is offering technical and organisational support in the operations, maintenance and management of it in exchange for certain benefits such as use and operation of the hub for the delivery of IHS training and ancillary programmes as well as branding rights, among other things.

“We strongly believe that public private partnership offers the right incentives for sustainability and economic growth. Even so, we are committed to preserving the interest of the people and the state as owners of these investments,” the governor said.

The facility is envisioned to be a leading centre for technology and innovation in Nigeria, focusing on fostering disruptive ideas and supporting startups.

Temi Kolawole, the Innovation Hub’s Managing Director, remarked on the synergy between the two entities: “This partnership has identified a mutual focal point in our shared passion for innovation, digital skill enhancement, and job creation. We’re committed to ensuring the Hub’s sustainability and leaving a legacy, fuelled by Governor AbdulRahman’s vision for youth development that will trigger state and national development.”

Kolawole also mentioned the upcoming collaboration of the Ilorin Innovation Hub with the Federal Ministry of Communications Innovation and Digital Economy on various programmes, with IHS Towers as a mutual partner.

“This partnership is anticipated to further enhance the Hub’s offerings and extend its impact,” he added.

Darwish commended Kwara State’s progressive digital policies, particularly the free Right of Way for Fiber Optic Cable deployment, which is critical in facilitating the growth of the digital economy in the state.

“With the MoU in place, our focus is on transforming the Ilorin Innovation Hub into a reality by the second quarter of 2024,” he said.

Darwish said IHS Towers is firmly established in Nigeria, including Kwara State where it has laid more than 500 kilometres of fibre optic cable aside from connecting many local communities to its telecommunications networks.

“We have a system that we have deployed in rural areas and communities where they hitherto had zero coverage,” he added.

Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria, said, “Your Excellency sir, I just want to say a big thank you for the good work you are doing in Kwara state. As Chairman of the association of telecom providers in Nigeria, the report we have received is that Kwara is one of the friendliest states for network operators. So, on behalf of the association, I want to thank you for being such a good leader. Kwara is not just on a globe map but Kwara is a state of reference for good governance and good leadership.

“They also told me that your cabinet has a number of young people, and is gender sensitive, and this is something that is very unusual not only in the history of the state but also in the country. Once again, I thank you.”

Kazeem Oladipo, Vice President of IHS Towers, said the Governor has shown good vision for the state, and that is paying off already in different areas.

“I want to remind His Excellency of the meeting we had about two and a half years ago, where you signified interest to do a fibre and told us to proceed with deployment. That meeting has brought a lot of positive developments to the state. Today, Kwara state has perhaps one of the top five deployment volumes that we’ve done in the entire country. And we are still doing more. As we speak, we are deploying additional fibre in the state. We have a plan to connect more locations, and we will see that through. With the innovation hub coming on board as well, we will provide additional connectivity infrastructure to the state.

“And to add to what Muhammed (CEO IHS) said about rural telephoning, you will also recall we came to you, you gave us land in different local government areas, and we have deployed in those rural networks. And that helps to bring internet and telephoning services to communities that previously had zero access to connectivity services. We will work with the team to continue to look at places where gaps exist.”

The Ilorin Innovation Hub, a state-of-the-art innovation facility initiated by the Kwara State Government, is designed to foster a conducive environment for youth, facilitating the learning of digital skills and supporting the growth of businesses through innovation and startup entrepreneurship.

It is a testament to the government’s commitment to advancing technological proficiency and entrepreneurial spirit among the youth, positioning Kwara State as a hub for digital innovation and economic development.

IHS Towers, for its part, is the fifth largest independent owners, operators, and developers of shared telecommunications infrastructure in the world by tower count. With a significant presence across multiple countries, the company specialises in building and managing telecom towers and related infrastructure.

Renowned for its innovative approach, IHS Towers is famous for enhancing connectivity and supporting the expansion of wireless networks globally. The company’s achievements include significant contributions to the telecom sector, marked by the deployment of cutting-edge technology and sustainable practices, making it a key player in the telecommunications infrastructure industry.