Growing tech communities across Africa will continue to push the continent’s digital revolution forward while powering societal and cultural changes, and a key part of moving this digital revolution forward is increased internet and mobile access across the continent.
In the last decade, mobile access, favorable tech policies, and improved infrastructure and education earned Kenya and South Africa reputations as startup havens. Now, we can add Nigeria—the continent’s largest economy—to the list as its young, growing population and entrepreneurial spirit attract tech investments.
We recently partnered with Ingressive—a Lagos-based tech integration firm with reach across Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa’s tech ecosystems—to explore Lagos’s growing tech sector.
Here’s what we learned.
Similar to the rest of the continent, Nigeria has a young population and growing workforce to fuel its technological revolution. Half of the country’s 182 million people are under 30 years old—and the youth population is growing fast.
Nigeria’s young people are enterprising, with 82 percent of them viewing entrepreneurship as a good career. In cities like Lagos and Ibadan, their excitement for software development and tech is clear from packed meetups on the ground.
Developers and entrepreneurs in Nigeria and across Africa are creating a range of projects and contributing to others on GitHub. Check out Tanzanian developer Geofrey Ernest’s utron, a lightweight framework for building fast, scalable and robust database-driven web applications, and Nigerian user interface designer and front-end developer Ire Aderinokun who builds and contributes to tools that make web applications accessible and compatible across devices and web browsers.
While young people in Nigeria are eager to join the tech sector, they also need training. To build their skills, they’re seeking support from a growing number of developer community meetups, conferences, and tech hubs. As of 2016, Nigeria was home to 23 tech hubs—and we should expect to see even more in response to growing demand.
Nigerian startups have grown across industries—including financial technology (fintech), job training, agriculture, travel, and ecommerce—and entrepreneurs are creating products and services that address the challenges of their country’s developing infrastructure. For example, although Nigeria still relies heavily on cash, fintech companies are streamlining banking, payments, and money transfers to help more Nigerians bank digitally and take advantage of the country’s advancing banking system.
Startups like Flutterwave, Paystack, and Paga are a few examples of companies leading the way. From 2015 to 2017, African fintech startups, with the inclusion of Flutterwave and Paystack, raised more than $100 million combined. Flutterwave, a startup that has raised $10 million in funding, and Paystack, the first Nigerian startup accepted into Y Combinator, are not the only Nigerian-centric startups getting attention from foreign investors. Andela, a developer training school that trains African developers for engineering jobs across the globe, has raised $81 million to date and $24 million in 2016 alone from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative—the organization’s first-ever investment. This investment interest is spreading across other African tech ecosystems and reached a record high of about $195 million this year.
The growing attention and investment in Nigerian and African startups will continue to support local tech communities, but government policies are needed to continue their growth.
Through increased investments and partnerships, Nigerian tech communities can transform the country’s economy and impact others far beyond its borders. The Nigerian government’s support and implementation of tech-friendly policies will be critical in making sure the sector keeps growing.
Government officials know they’ll have a key role to play in the success of Nigerian tech. In a recent keynote for Harvard Business School’s “Africa Rising” course (the program’s first of its kind and yet another indicator of growing interest), Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo noted that “Africa Rising” is also about improving standards of governance, among other factors.
The Nigerian government sees technology as crucial to the continent’s future. Pro-innovation lawmakers can help guide key policy issues like broadband access, free expression, privacy, security, and more.
While no one country can represent an entire continent, Nigeria indicates that growing tech communities will be supported by continued investment, partnerships, and policies built specifically for tech ecosystems across Africa.