itana nigeria
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Nigeria plans to create its own startup city

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Author | Jaime Ramos

We always refer to Silicon Valley as a universal example when trying to define an urban community focused on technological development. However, urban centers and hubs have emerged across the world trying to emulate this model which, despite many planners and investors failing to acknowledge, emerged in a very specific historical context and one that is difficult to replicate. However, some proposals are truly notable, and Itana in Nigeria, is one of the most interesting projects.

What is Itana?

Itana or Talent City is one of Africa’s most promising tech city or hub projects. Located near to Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, its location is particularly relevant, since it is located on the Lekki peninsula, an area covering 150 square kilometers that has a different and more flexible administrative and fiscal system to the rest of the country.

The plan is to develop a leading technological community for the continent, and one which, by boosting innovation, can stimulate other areas of urban growth. The aim is to create a magnet for urban and tech entrepreneurs and local talent in the technology sector.

At the moment, it plans to accommodate thousands of new residents. However, Itana has established more sophisticated (and digital) mechanisms, taking advantage of the benefits they offer, which includes access to a digital membership for an annual subscription fee of $100 . This subscription grants future privileges within Itana’s business panorama.

What is the Lekki Free Trade Zone?

The foundations of this tech city are fundamentally based on the specific features and administrative and fiscal concessions of the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ). Lekki is a natural peninsula surrounded by lagoons, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and joined to Lagos by three bridges.

It falls within the category of charter city because, in 2009, the government established special and much more flexible tax regulations for companies in the area, focusing on industrialization and attracting foreign capital.

Who is financing Itana?

The profile of its founders coincides with the essence of what the area intends to achieve, by bringing together the tech CEO Iyinoluwa Aboyeji; the real estate developer Luqman Edu and the climate journalist Coco Liu. However, Itana is currently funded by more heterogeneous investment sources.

It forms part of the Charter Cities Institute network, which refers to the project as Talent City and advertises the creation of a central co-working campus and with a capacity for 1,000 residents. Also in the financial division are companies such as Binance which has already held prominent events in Lagos this year. In statements to Wired, Edu recognized construction costs of $500 million to complete the first phase of Itana.

What is a charter city?

Itana falls within the category of a charter city, cities with their own governance system and autonomy that do not follow the rest of the country’s regulations. There are various legislations across the world that support this form of urban regime. Such is the case of Hong Kong.

Charter cities do have their own complexities and have received criticism from those who warn that they favor a form of own protectionism that leads to exclusivity rather than inclusivity.

In the case of Itana, it cannot be isolated from its own geographical and continental location. These are areas of the planet that are set to form part of the next demographic revolution and which will face challenges that need to be tackled from a smart city perspective.

Images | YouTube/Itana

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