Tinubu’s Cabinet: The Top 10 Round Pegs in Round Holes – BOSUN TIJANI

BOSUN TIJANI – (Minister of Communication, Innovation and Digital Economy)

At 46, Olatunbosun Tijani is one of the young elements in the new Federal Executive Council constituted recently by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He represents the President’s response to the yearning of Nigerian youths for the appointment of members of their generation into key positions of responsibility in government. But, more importantly, Tijani’s appointment and deployment as Minister of Communication, Innovation and Digital Economy is another evidence of President Tinubu’s knack for appointing people to positions where they perfectly fit, based on their talent, competence and experience.

At the ministry of Communication Innovation and Digital Economy, Tijani is a round peg in a round hole. The mandate of the ministry include facilitating universal, ubiquitous and cost effective access to communications infrastructure throughout the country; Promoting the utilization of ICT in all spheres of life to optimize the communications infrastructure – digital content creation, domestic software applications and the delivery of private and public services over the internet; promoting and facilitating the development of the ICT industry and increase the contribution of the ICT industry to GDP; and utilizing ICT to drive transparency in governance and improve the quality and cost effectiveness of public service delivery in Nigeria.

Going by his antecedents, Tijani is tailor-made for the responsibilities of his new office. Basically, as minister of Communication, Innovation and Digital Economy, he would be involved in the same activities he has been engaged in over the years as an ICT entrepreneur, albeit at a higher, government policy level.

Bosun Tijani, as he is popularly known, is the co-founder of Co-Creation Hub (CcHUB), the leading Pan-African innovation and technology centre. Co-Creation Hub works at the forefront of accelerating the application of innovation and social capital for a better society.

Tijani is widely acknowledged as a pioneer and industry leader in the African technology ecosystem and was named as one of the 100 Most Influential People on the continent by New Africa Magazine. He initiated the first visit of Mark Zuckerberg to Nigeria in August 2016 as part of efforts to place Africa on the global technology map. He has also hosted other global technology leaders in Nigeria, including former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in 2019 and most recently in June, 2023, hosted a fireside chat with Microsoft founder and co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates. In 2019, under his leadership, CcHUB acquired Kenya’s iHub and launched the CcHUB Design Lab in Kigali, Rwanda in the same year. He has also expanded CcHUB’s Pan-African footprint into Southern Africa by opening CcHUB Namibia, the main tech hub in Windhoek, Namibia in 2023.

Tijani was also recently appointed as a visiting adjunct professor at the Wits School of Governance, effective September 2023 after spending time as an adjunct researcher with research interests in collaborative projects that inform practice through support to policymakers, inventors and entrepreneurs while advancing theories in innovation systems and governance.

Tijani was born in Agege, Lagos, on July 20, 1977, and spent his formative years there before moving to Abeokuta, capital of neighbouring Ogun state, for his secondary education. In 1996, he went to University of Jos, Plateau State, where he earned a diploma in Computer Science before enrolling to study Economics, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 2002. He later obtained an M.Sc in Information Systems and Management from the Warwick Business School, United Kingdom in 2007.

In 2023, Tijani earned a PhD in innovation and economic development from the School of Business, University of Leicester. His doctoral research focused on contributing to a better understanding of how the network perspective to innovation capacity could provide a contextually relevant framework for explaining the adoption and adaptation of innovation in developing countries. The study specifically offers an alternative path to how African countries could effectively organise their innovation ecosystems.

Tijani has also been part of the Innovation for Economic Development executive programme at Harvard Kennedy School in 2013 as well as being a 2014 Draper Hills Fellow of the Centre for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University.

Before CcHUB, Tijani worked with the International Trade Centre, Geneva, Switzerland as a Fellow, researching on trade development with particular emphasis on enterprise management development. During this period, he successfully led the development and deployment of a web-marketing and information services programme in Ghana between March and September 2006 and subsequently in Uganda and Kenya which recorded positive outputs. The programme was deployed in Ethiopia and later extended to South Africa and Tanzania.

At Hewlett Packard, Tijani successfully managed the deployment of the ODel learning centre at the Africa Virtual University in Kenya and completed the deployment of the HP, IEEE and University of Ibadan telecentre in Nigeria. He also initiated and completed the deployment of the HP Micro-enterprise Acceleration Programme learning centre at the Lagos Business School in Nigeria and provided recognizable support to its deployment in Egypt and Morocco.

Tijani later moved to Pera Innovation Network (PERA) in 2007 where he served as the European Innovation Manager. At PERA, he led the coordination of innovation agencies across Europe. In different capacities, he was responsible for managing the Pan-European Research Network of Universities participating in the Framework Programme 7 as well as the INNOTEX Project – a European Commission-funded project for the development of a cross cluster best practice platform for entrepreneurial innovation for the technical textile sector (United Kingdom, Spain, Estonia and Denmark).

In 2010, Tijani co-founded CcHUB, a technology innovation centre dedicated to accelerating the application of social capital and technological innovation for economic prosperity. In the early years, he led a number of social technology projects including Lagos Innovation Hotspots and the i-HQ concept (the umbrella initiative for Yaba – the fastest growing tech cluster in Africa), which involved working with MainOne Cable and the Lagos State Government to lay fibre optic cables in the Yaba area of Lagos, accelerating the growth of the area into becoming the home of technology startups in Nigeria. Under his leadership, CcHUB has driven the growth of social innovation and influenced businesses and initiatives in different sectors including – environment (Wecyclers), fiscal transparency (BudgIT), e-commerce (Traclist), Healthcare (LifeBank), education (re-learn), wellness (Truppr) and transportation (GoMyWay), civic activity (GoVOTE), online and cybersecurity (SafeOnline), among others.

His later work with CcHUB focused on the company’s expansion into other parts of Africa and positioning the business as a vital catalyst for the African tech ecosystem promoting collaboration, knowledge sharing, and the development of groundbreaking solutions to local and global challenges. This has been done in collaboration with a number of global partners and founders who have backed his work extensively.

In addition to his ongoing work with CcHUB, Tijani is also actively involved in a number of initiatives within and outside the tech ecosystem.

The young minister has served on the boards of several companies; was a member of a high level expert advisory group focused on advising the European Commission on how to mainstream research and innovation through Africa-Europe Cooperation; and was selected in 2017 by the African Leadership Institute to be a part of the prestigious Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship.