Running a startup in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria and Nigeria’s South East has not only been difficult but may require same aggressive approach the region is known for. This is not only because the tech ecosystem in the region does not have the support of the government and leaders in the region but the region has over the years found out that it was quicker blowing oil facilities for a compensation than invest the energy of a youth in creative thinking.
Talking about creative thinking, it will be hard for some youths in the area to marry the idea of thinking creatively when the government, leaders and potential investors only pay for and encourage violence rather than creative thinking. Several lofty programs have been thrown the way of the Niger Delta militants while it is hard for the same government in Nigeria to invest in startups and hubs in the region to help solve the problems of the region and help the pool of talented straying youths.
Today, Andela’s 40 million US Dollar funding is trending on the internet. It is not just the news that catches my fancy but the stories behind the startup. For instance Jeremy Johnson, the Co-founder and CEO of Andela wrote “When we first started Andela, even those who loved and believed in us thought it was a bit crazy. But with every partnership, we’re proving to the world that brilliance is evenly distributed and has nothing to do with nationality or gender. Soon, the demographic challenges that many associate with Africa will instead become an advantage. Increasingly, African technologists will be leading companies solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges and, simultaneously, reversing age-old misconceptions about talent and potential.”
The above is the challenges of almost all, if not all startups in the Nigeria Niger Delta. The people, the government and the leaders do not believe in tech communities bringing financial solutions to an impoverished region whose resources are managed by imperturbable leaders. Thank Goodness however, the emerging startups and hubs in the region seems to be moving headlong to face the challenges in the region and gradually are reaching out to the world while operating from the region.
For instance, some Akwa Ibom State born entrepreneurs are returning to the state to invest in and hunt for talents in the area. Mark Essien of Hotels.ng in September, kicked off what I saw as the biggest hunt for developers in the area when he launched the hotels.ng internship program which is aimed at discovering developers in the region. The young people are presently groomed and are already rooted in the industry where they are expected to be employed in the company or work as developers in other tech establishments across the globe.
Barely a month after Mark Essien’s launch of Hotels.ng internship program, Iboro Otu of ALERT Nigeria stormed Uyo, for the launching of ALERT Nigeria program, IOLED. IOLED is an acronym for Iboro Otu’s Leadership and Entrepreneurship Discourse. The program is aimed at discovering young talents through its essay competition and finding solutions to our communities which presently has its untapped resources yearning for attention from every possible investor.
Before now, Hanson Johnson of Start Innovation Hub has been battling with the challenges of putting on the light through his hub. Sad that the present government in Akwa Ibom State still see investment in the IT industry as a conduit pipe for possible laundering, the hub and other hubs in Uyo is yet to have the necessary support that will pull the world to the state. Other hubs like Enterprise, Hubitz, Roothub, Express, etc. are not relenting in proving to the world that there is more to the region than the several agitations witnessed among the youths of the region.
Andela has attracted top investors like the Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg and the startup is merely 3 years old. According to New York times “The animating idea behind Andela, founded in 2014, is that Africa has plenty of smart people, but that they too often lack the preparation for and pathways to gainful jobs — the missing ingredients that Andela can provide in the field of software development.”
I must commend hubs in the Niger Delta region who are also having this dream of raising a pool of young talented people. With Andela’s pool of fund estimated at several billions of Naira, startups in the region are encouraged to remain focus in the finding of needed talents and raising young developers even when the governments in the region does not support innovativeness and creativity. Surely, it is worthy of note that there is no better time to start than now.