Analyzing Nigeria’s start up ecosystem

Posted on August 2, 2017 12:00 am

Nigeria is undoubtedly the biggest economy in Africa although when it comes to most developed economy, South Africa takes the crown. The same can be said of its start up eco system that is still lagging behind compared to South Africa. A friend who has invested heavily in Nigerian start up eco system recently shared a couple of experiences he’s had so far and overall I can say satisfaction with returns is his main achievement.  With more than six years of experience new tech solutions across various industries, my friend believes outside of South Africa, no any other country can offer better returns than Nigeria.When it comes to the infrastructure of support and the pillars required for Nigerian start-ups to be successful, he says it is much more established than any other country except South Africa. There are many players in the Nigerian market that have been focusing on building ecosystem for last couple of years and are still doing it. He told your blogger that he is impressed with the commitment start ups are showing and a lot of people’s first thought is to create start-ups. He was also surprised by the level of awareness in major cities like Abuja and Lagos. In Nigeria, starting a start-up is now among the first choice, or a choice in terms of career for many graduates who can’t find a job. He believes that the days when young Nigerian graduates thought of being a professor or a doctor are fast fading.There is true potential in the Nigerian ecosystem. Since he started investing in the country, he has seen is hunger for knowledge. A lot of Nigeria developers are doing well because there’s no challenge of the language barrier other non english speaking countries in the west african region have. This problem happens in countries like Senegal, Benin, Ivory Coast and other countries as well. In those countries, they will try to find a way to bypass that barrier. On the other hand, Nigeria developers have a very solid group of people and know how to maintain and circulate the knowledge in the ecosystem. Unlike South Africa tech start ups that compete globally, and market themselves, he has not yet seen enough of such in Nigeria and most start ups are not really coming out and exposing themselves beyond Nigeria and the region. According to him, Nigeria has not got to the stage where most of outside investors have shown confidence in the capability of its start-ups like is the case with South Africa.

Now it’s at the point where local investors and few foreign investors are feeling comfortable.He believes that most outsiders do not share the same perception because of the global negative perception about Nigeria as graft ridden country and the global hub for scammers.In his view, the more Nigerians can expose their start-up capability and potential to other parts of Africa, the more they can help in at least getting people to get interested. It’s slowly happening but he feels there’s need to continue working on that. There is room for growth in the size and number of funds Nigeria has access to. And he think that would come when interest in the Nigeria ecosystem grows.However, when people think of Nigeria, it’s easy to first think of terror group Boko Haram, higher labour costs, corruption and lack of expertise. Before the collapse of oil prices there years ago, Nigeria used to be one of the first places to come to mind, but there’s been a revolution of Nigeria growing to a stage of maturity as a country.  It is not as economical as Ghana. If stakeholders can really expose Nigeria to more investment from different countries, then the resources and tools will come in.One very interesting thing he has realized about the Nigeria ecosystem is that Nigerians are everywhere in Africa. They have an ability to find each other and get connected, and that is a strength. The investor hold the view that opportunity comes with vertical industry. His advice to any aspiring Nigerian start-up is not to lose sight of the fact that understanding the local culture and context is very important. Balance that very well with expansion plans, money and funding.It is very easy to roll in the market and start executing immediately. But Nigerian start-ups do not necessarily have that luxury very often. So understanding the local culture, and the behaviour of the countries they want to scale up to whether its Ghana, Ivory Coast or Senegal, is crucial because the room for error is very small. He added that Nigerians should focus on something that keeps their passion going. It’s very easy for developers to get burned out because there are so many technologies to learn.A lot of Nigerian start up communities are very close and connected to one another. That’s the beauty of the ecosystem in Nigeria.They have a tendency to connect with one another and that’s their similarity and strength. There are two sides of this similarity mainly in Abuja and Lagos. The good side is they find strength, and the bad thing is it is very hard sometimes to get out of that circle and start connecting with people outside. People just feel comfortable in their comfort zone as Nigeria is slowly approaching the point where awareness has matured and that comes with experience. It is important the current ecosystem players continue to groom the Nigerian community of start-ups, more people will have an opportunity to go on that journey, come back to share their experiences with people who want to launch start-ups. Overall, my friend is upbeat and excited about Nigeria start-ups.

Contador Harrison