Making businesses’ more efficient, so they can provide a better service to the public at a lower cost. That is the idea behind Blueport Software. It has been a year now since I moved back to Nigeria to start Blueport. It has been a very successful year and I have been blessed beyond my imagination but not because Nigeria is the new Silicon Valley, most of my clients have come from the United States. In Nigeria the adoption of Technology solutions in business and the government has been relatively slow, maybe it is because the economy has been bad but I doubt that.
Considering the size of the market, it is a shame that most of the large technology providers here are foreign (MTN, Spectranet, Smile etc). We pay huge costs for their services and the money generated from us escapes our economy and mostly returns to their respective home countries in form of taxes or expansions in their business. I have been asking myself why technology has not been embraced by the country at the same level like it has been embraced in Kenya or South Africa and these are a few of my observations:
1. The Government does not value technology as much as they should
I was reading the news and realized that the government has shared the responsibility of the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) ministry between the Ministry of Communications and the Ministry of Science and Technology. This was probably done for budgetary reasons but considering that the value of technology is that is shaves costs, creates new jobs and a better life for people, would this not be the time to double down on that sector and make sure viable projects are being created and supported? I also see headlines about Nigeria trying to censor porn and the first thought in my mind is how much is this going to cost to execute and to police this? Especially since we are in debt and we are cost cutting.
It just feels to me that our priorities are misplaced. I know this is hard times for Nigeria as well as the government is new but if there is any sector where money should be violently infused, it should be in technology where we can innovate to reduce costs of government operations, supporting businesses’ and creating new opportunities for the unemployed. Don’t get me wrong, the government does have initiatives on the table but it is not enough and it is too slow.
2. Nigerians do not understand or trust technology
Basically there is a lack of education generally in Nigeria about the potential of technology and also due to lack of solid implementations of technology, we witness technology fail all around us regularly. We have ATMs that debit our accounts without giving us the money, we have internet providers that are not consistent in delivering us high speed internet and having dropped calls and getting scammed by your phone company is a normal occurrence. There is so much technological failure around us so why should we invest more into this unreliable thing? When it works it is great but we have been trained time and time again to never rely on technology because it will most likely disappoint us. So we do not invest in it.
3. The cost of running a technology company is too high
In most western countries you hear about students starting million dollar businesses from their parents garage. That is not possible here in Nigeria where there is no constant electricity for children to use to investigate and experiment with computers and the cost of Internet is literally 300%+ of the price of internet in western countries. So the low barrier of entry into the technology scene enjoyed by many young fearless and imaginative people around the world is only enjoyed here by VERY few here in Nigeria, greatly reducing the probability of us releasing any technological hits.
4. It exposes corruption
Embracing technology in Nigeria would mean embracing transparency, which exposes corruption and will force us to deal with it in our system and that is just not what a lot of people are looking for now. It will lead to the changing of hands in power and wealth in our society, which is not exciting to a lot of people. Nigeria has a way of operating now and even if it does not favor most people, most people are ok with it cause the Nigerian dream is that your ‘turn’ will come. There are not a lot of people excited to flip this system on its head. Hence if you show up with software to promote efficiency in certain companies you might be met with blank stares or ‘Great stuff we will call you soon’.
5. Nigerians do not trust things made in Nigeria
This to me is probably the saddest of all. I do not know if I even want to get into this cause it can be a post on its own but basically for many reasons, some which are the fact we have been trained not to trust technology, or the lack of trust and unity between ourselves in this country, a sprinkle of colonial mentality and the lack of proper education of the public on what good technology looks like, we do not trust technology with the ‘Made in Nigeria by Nigerians’ stamp. so in order to effectively market yourself to companies or individuals it seems to help if your company is not 100% Nigerian, as in it is possible to do business with no foreign investment, partners or clients but having them only helps.
This is probably the darkest post I have written this year. I do not believe in complaining without an intention to fix your situation, this post is not a rant about what is wrong in Nigeria but an explanation of what I have observed in the past year researching and figuring out how to grow a technology company in Nigeria. It is a brief outline of what obstacles you may encounter, which may help you in marketing yourself effectively.