In a significant development for Africa’s digital landscape, Lagos-based Itana, formerly known as Talent City, has announced that it secured $2 million in pre-seed funding.
The investment is led by backers, including LocalGlobe, Amplo, Pronomos Capital and Future Africa, marking a step toward realizing Africa’s inaugural Digital Free Zone.
Founded by Luqman Edu, Coco Liu, and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, this funding is pivotal in realizing their vision to enhance Nigeria’s ease-of-doing-business index, stimulate foreign direct investment, and catalyze employment opportunities within the nation.
As of early 2022, the self-described charter city, backed by Charter Cities Institute and Pronomos Capital, a Peter Thiel-backed venture fund, had secured over $10 million for the project situated within Alaro City, in the Lekki Free Zone, just outside of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos.
“We are building an online jurisdiction that allows global companies to remotely incorporate and operate in a Nigerian Digital Free Zone in partnership with Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority to develop relevant policies for a groundbreaking ‘virtual city.’ Itana Free Zone will be powered by a one-stop-shop platform for business and government services, including taxation, business visas, banking, capital repatriation, and supportive legislation for businesses. We will also be building a business marketplace, working with trusted service providers including legal, tax, banking, and more. We hope to help the businesses in our zone navigate the business landscape and operations with transparency and clarity to enable growth,” Itana tweeted on the announcement.
Aboyeji, one of the co-founders, emphasizes the importance of creating a conducive environment for Nigerian tech companies to thrive locally.
“In 2016 when I incorporated @theflutterwave, my first Delaware company, I never imagined incorporating a Delaware company would become the default for Nigerian companies looking to go global. For me, it was just a clever hack. But it became a movement.
“Post SVB crash crisis, incorporating a Delaware company and getting a bank account from Nigeria has quietly become a little more stressful. With the ascension of one of our own, @bosuntijani, as Minister, it has become imperative to bring our tech companies home. However, to do so, we need the right regulatory environment with the right benefits and opportunities that allow them to compete globally from right here in Nigeria,” tweeted Aboyeji. “This is why I’m so grateful for @ItanaAfrica and the incredible cast of mentors and investors who have come together to make this possible. If you are a Nigerian company and you want to come home, head on to itana.africa and incorporate your FZE today. Super excited to welcome you home.”
The announcement of Itana’s funding has garnered enthusiastic support from the tech community.
Pronomos Capital tweeted: “We’ve been working with the @ItanaAfrica team for 3 years now, and we love them, their concept, and its traction. Also big fans of @iaboyeji’s leadership, and since co-founders Luqman & @cocobliu joined, it’s been build mode beast time!” Victor Ndukwe tweeted: “Super proud to be a part of the dream team. Building the gateway to the digital economy in Africa is audacious, and with the right kind of folks around, it becomes one of the most exciting journeys. Cheers to a prosperous Africa as we build to expand its trillion-dollar economy!”