By Rarzack Olaegbe
We did not notice it. Mark Zuckerberg did. From afar, he plugged into it, and he would one day sell its services to us. However, had few of the technology-centric banks in Nigeria pooled resources and invested in Andela, the story would have been different. Had the tech venture capitalists and technology ecosystem invested in Andela’s model, this story would not happen. Had the richest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote’s company, Alheri Engineering, and venture capitalists and Lagos Angle investors invested in Andela, Zuckerberg’s would have looked elsewhere.
Nevertheless, as it is usually the case, the banks did not appreciate it. Perhaps, they did. But they did not trust Andela model. From its campuses in Yaba [Nigeria] and Nairobi, Andela recruits the most talented technologists in Africa and shapes them into excellent developers through a four-year technical leadership programme. They did not trust this business model. Their hearts belong elsewhere. That explains why local investors and venture capitalists shun Andela.
If Zuckerberg has no investment in Andela, he would not have given us a passing glance. He would not have thought about visiting Co-Creation Hub [CcHub] in Yaba. He would not meet the Nigerian tech developers and entrepreneurs. He would not savour the early morning breeze by jogging along Lekki bridge. He would not hobnob with the tech startup community or visit Nigeria in the first place.
Yes, he would not have visited Nigeria. Few years back, a friend invited Zuckerberg to speak at a high-level event. He turned it down. He cited kidnapping as an excuse. Two years after, he visited Nigeria. Flip the page: what has changed? The name of the occupant in Aso Rock villa has changed.
Anyway, because we failed to do the needful, Zuckerberg has now become the messiah to raise our consciousness about the importance of investing in local tech startups. We have turned Zuckerberg’s visit into a unique selling point for his product at our expense.
Get this; Zuckerberg did not build his business by jogging along Lekki bridge in broad day. He crushed oppositions to establish the $15 billion Facebook Empire. For Zukerberg, it is not about cash. It is about control. It is about cash fuelling control. Reason he has a controlling share in Facebook. Therefore, as we have failed to invest in Andela, Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative had invested $24 million, this 32-year old American would one day import our services to us.
He would employ the brains of our local tech startups and sell their services to us in dollars. In the words of the two-term chair, Local Organizing Committee of Demo Africa, Yele Okeremi, as it is the practice in the oil and gas sector where primary goods are exported and finished goods are imported.
“Now we are exporting technology startups to import technology services. We must pay attention to our tech startups. What we should do is to create several opportunities. We need to look at the tech startup ecosystem. We may not achieve a global IT firm, but we will plant the foundation of having many global IT firms out of Nigeria”. When the foundation of several global IT firms in Nigeria is ready, I hope the venture capitalists, investors, incubators, and the rich Nigerians would notice it and invest in it. Before Zuckerberg does.
Rarzack Psalmson Olaegbe is a communication analyst and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org