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Opinion: Nigerian Vice President’s Startup Tour Was Not Convincing

Yemi Osinbajo

In Nigeria, the government seems to work tirelessly to ensure that the country’s tech sector gets the best shareholders. However, the people who are in the sector still fail to take note of that.  Yemi Osinbajo, the country’s vice president had a tour to the tech sector in Lagos in April this year. A number of experts in the sector described the tour as one that was put up for President Muhammadu Buhari to get the sector’s support during his run for another term in 2019. Among the visited startups was Farmcrowdy, Nigerian based digital agricultural site. This came after the startup had got its latest funding round of investment worth $325,000 from the GSMA.

The vice president also visited the Co-Creation Hub (ccHub), Paystack, Muster NG, Carido, Venia Hub, Workstation, and Africa Fintech Foundry. He gave the same message during his stopovers during his tour. He said that he was told about the good work done by the startups that he visited. He acknowledged the fact that the work is done by the youthful Nigerians.

 

He added that the Nigerian government was ready to support the sector. As a norm, every visit ended with selfies and photo sessions. A number of founders of startups that were visited by the vice presided lauded the move. But others were not happy with the itinerary, conversations, and speeches made during the visit. For instance Segun Adedayo, a Nigerian developer was not happy with the fact that people spend much time on photo sessions rather than having the real talk on real issues. He added that there was no genuine step that was achieved by the tour apart from a number of bragging rights at the tech tours and social media tags.

Buhari also had another meeting during the same month where he talked about the Lazy Nigerian Youths. This took place at Commonwealth Business Forum hosted in Westminster in England. According to tech lover, Jasper Jaja many upcoming tech stakeholders visited by the vice president are among the techs that complain about policies put up by the present government which is challenging to the tech companies. He added that the techies did not use their time well to address the issues in the presence of the VP instead they took that time to be a photo session. The Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (PDP) political strategist and analyst Demola Olarewaju had the same feeling. He said that the #VPTourOfTech looked like it gave Lagos tech sector a false hope.

However, Thisruption Communications’ team leader Chidi Okereke had a different view from the two. He said that the tour was a kind move by the VP. He added that the tour should not be politicized but rather be seen as a way through which leaders connected with the people. At the time when Lagos was hosting the VP the topic of gender insensitivity was the talk of the town. This was due to the fact that on all the visited startups, none was headed by a female. AWP Networks’ founder Mary Olushoga the move just confirmed the persisted trend that is always been there. This has widened the gender gap which has led to the ignoring of a female in tech startups.

But she said that the VP was not aware that there existed tech startups that are led by the female in the country. The main challenge for the country’s government in the startup sector was not the president’s blunt speech or the Lagos visit by the VP. The challenges are brought by the poor relationship between Adebayo Shittu the Nigerian communication minister and the tech sector. The mister lacks background knowledge in technology. It was also not surprising that he was not part of the delegation that accompanied the VP during the tour. This is due to the fact that few days before the tour he showed his doubt on the ability of the country’s youths to lead and be entrusted with responsibilities. This took place on a live radio interview.

Since the visit, there are no noticeable changes in the sector. A number of promises that were made by the VP and the country’s administration are yet to be fulfilled. Techpoint’s venture analyst Ifeanyi Ndiomewese said that the VP tour brought nothing to the sector. It only cemented the notion that the people have on the government’s position in the ICT. However, Flutterwave’s co-founder Iyinoluwa Aboyeji who is believed to have facilitated the VP’s tour said that the visit is an important first stride of a long journey for the sector and the government.

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Written by Denis Opudo

Am an engineer who's a tech blogger, hit me up on dennis@techinafrica.com and we base our discussion on technology in Africa and the rest of the world.
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