As the tech space in Africa continues to grow due to a population that is just waking up to the huge possibilities of tech, it continues to attract people and organisations around the world.
The latest to be so attracted and enthralled with the Nigerian tech space is no other than the president of Yale University, Peter Salovey. Together with a team of top university officials, the university don visited Techpoint Africa for a townhall with some players in the Nigerian tech space.
“We are building up our capacity to provide education for those who are interested in entrepreneurship and innovation,” Peter Solvey said while introducing Yale University’s Africa initiative in his opening speech.
Declarations such as that would set the pace for proceedings and here are a few takeaways we gleaned from the affair:
Media influence on startup development has been massive
In a very short time, the media, especially tech media organisations, have played major and massive roles in defining and improving the tech ecosystem in Nigeria.
It is not enough to develop solutions to problems, the public need to be aware of these solutions and how they can better their lives.
Thus, Techpoint’s editor-in-chief, Muyiwa Matuloko narrated the history of tech media in Nigeria, the players and the contributions they have made to the tech ecosystem. He also narrated how the media has gone beyond providing publicity to actually contribute funding, equipment, mentorship and other material incentives to startups and founders.
Potential in Africa is huge and grossly untapped
There has always been an existing belief that Africa is the new frontier for tech, business and digital transformation. That belief is truth and according to Andela’s Senior Director for Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A), Tosin Okojie, majority of the 420 million African youths within the ages of 18-35 are unemployed or doing casual jobs.
This creates a pool of active young people who are hungry for work and success. Couple that with the statistic that between 20-40 billion dollars will be lost by 2050 due to jobs that aren’t filled and demands that are not met, you’ll begin to understand why Africa’s teeming youths are an asset that should be exploited.
Nigerian startups are solving real problem
Succinctly put, if your startup isn’t solving a real problem in Nigeria, chances of surviving will be very slim. Emmanuel Adegbola who presented an overview of the tech ecosystem explained this phenomenon using the painkiller versus vitamins analogy.
Tech startups in Nigeria are creating painkillers which are necessities, not just vitamins which can be luxuries.
It is therefore not a surprising that Nigeria is the most-preferred destination for foreign investors and venture capitals. According to a recent report, Nigeria attracted by far the most funding of all African countries.
…however, many Nigerian startups suffer from poor funding
It doesn’t matter how much funding the country attracts, it is never enough for the numerous startups looking to solve the numerous problems faced by the country. Because of this lack of funding, the small time startups, many of them wielding solutions to major problems people face in the country, cannot scale and achieve their potentials.
A startup like NLegal for instance is looking to get legal representation for millions of Nigerians being antagonized daily but couldn’t explore legal services. But due to a lack of funding, they couldn’t scale their service. Several other startups shared similar stories.
Culture is a major problem of expansion into African markets
A solution that works perfectly in Nigeria could flop woefully in Togo. Even within Nigeria, a solution could work fine in Lagos but miss the mark in Oshogbo or Ariaria. While there are several reasons why this could happen, they all bunch up to one central reason, culture.
From language to lifestyle, currency and religion, culture plays a huge role in how innovation is accepted anywhere. Thus, startups can’t expand into markets that are not yet culturally matured enough to understand its value and embrace it.
A zero policy affair
Succinctly put, there are no policies or guides or regulations targeted at the Nigerian startup ecosystem. As such, it is difficult to seek government input or assist especially in areas of funding, support and adoption.
While the Nigerian fintech space can be said to be quite different however because several CBN regulations fall squarely on them as well. But asides Fintechs, the government in Abuja is still trying to figure out what the startups, most of them based in Lagos, are about.
Peter Solvey’s visit and interaction with the Nigerian tech space brought a lot to the fore as it engendered a discussion that touched on various aspects of the ecosystem.
(All image credit: Techpoint Africa)
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