For many young Nigeriens like Saidou Moussa Feyçal, e-commerce has become the go-to for buying and selling all kinds of goods and services.
Although the industry has become commonplace, the timely delivery of purchases in good condition and at affordable rates remains a nagging gap for consumers – one where Saidou, alumnus of African Development University (ADU), saw an opportunity to start a business.
“Thousands of transactions are conducted every day via smartphones, generating millions in revenue,” he shared. “And most of these products have to be delivered from one place to another. Yet while delivery plays a strategic role in terms of customer acquisition and loyalty, it can be problematic. These reasons, coupled with my passion for entrepreneurship and my desire to help reduce youth unemployment in Niger drove me to start City Links in 2018.”
With help from ADU Ilimi Innovation Lab(iiLab), Saidou’s City Links, an urban logistics business that serves Nigerien e-commerce players, small businesses and restaurants, helping them deliver goods and products to their customers, grew from an idea into an actual business.
“With support from the iiLab, I was able to build the idea from ground up; testing the concept to serve my first client, and even meeting an investor,” shared Saidou whose business now employs 14 delivery riders. “We have grown from just an idea to a business offering tailored services to a wide range of businesses. Our goal is to offer our clients the best possible experience, help shape up Niger’s e-commerce industry and provide employment to the youth.”
Since launching in 2017, the iiLab has become a hotbed for student ideas and entrepreneurship projects like Saidou’s. By providing resources, network, and support, the lab has helped over ten students scale their innovative and entrepreneurial ideas and projects into businesses in industries ranging from agriculture to technology to fashion.
In looking to grow their impact, the iiLab partnered with the Education Collaborative under its mentorship program to work towards their goal of becoming a regional hub for young entrepreneurs.
“Since July 2021, ADU has embarked on a journey of revamping its innovation lab in order for it to optimize its impact both in Niger but also in the Sahelian entrepreneurship ecosystem,” shared Alioune Fall, Director of the iiLab.
In a series of workshops, ADU hosted Ashesi University faculty, Jewel Thompson and Impact Hub Program Manager, Bryan Achiampong, who worked together with the iiLab team in conducting field research and engaging stakeholders in Niger’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and financial sector. Their research will help develop a blueprint that allows the lab to scale into a center for entrepreneurship, community engagement, and design thinking.
“Our work with the iiLab team will produce a guidebook to support the developing entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Sahel region,” shared Jewel Thompson. “We look forward to ADU becoming a premier center for innovation and entrepreneurship for universities in the Sahel region. This way, they can continue to support more and more student ideas and projects.”
“Thanks to the remarkable support from the Education Collaborative, we’re able, in the process, to draw from the wealth of experience accumulated over the years at the Ashesi Entrepreneurship Ecosystem but also at Impact Hub Accra,” shared Fall. “Standing on the shoulders of such giants will undoubtedly enable the ADU iiLab to more effectively achieve its bold vision and go even further.”