Edtech startups in West Africa are undergoing many challenges that hinder the way they carry out their services. Some of the challenges are the mobile infrastructure especially mobile devices, school system, and diverse population. This factor acts as both opportunities and challenges for startups in that region. But back in Nigeria, you cannot name challenges affecting edtech startups in the country without talking about the government. According to the dotLearn’s CEO Sam Bhattaccaryya, he said that Nigeria is one of the regulatory-heavy and bureaucratic countries globally. He added that there are many regulations and laws that act as a stumbling block to many businesses.
Bhattaccaryya, said that a good number of people in the country do not have credit cards. This makes it hard to collect money from students who use the edtech platforms through mobile texting services. It then forces them to deduct the money directly from their airtime. Because of this airtime is their preferred source of digital money. People manually change it into their own mobile network onto their SIM cards. According to Hannes Van Regsburg, the sub-Saharan manager for Visa, the fact that the government puts heavier regulations on banks have led to the popularity of the alternative currency in Nigeria.
Websites or mobile app is in a position to charge customers digitally for the use of their airtime. For this to go through, one has to seek permission and carry out many interactions with the mobile service providers that one wishes to work with. Additionally, one has to acquire a government license that will allow them to do that. This tends to be expensive and take a lot of time before formalizing. Many startups lack the money and time to go through all the processes. It should also be kept in mind that these startups need to use digital ways to collect money in order to get going. Those are the challenges that startups have faced before and are still facing them now. It, therefore, makes Nigeria a tough market to thrive in.
But despite all these Lagos has changed into one of the biggest tech hubs in Africa. It has gone further to be at par or outsmart Nairobi and Cape Town. The country has the largest GDP and population in the continent. However, its GDP is ranked at position 17th in relation to per capita. Dovichi and DoviLearn’s CEO Okeke Vincent Chidozie said that there is still an undiscovered factor in Lagos. He adds that those staying in Lagos are always pushed by a given atmosphere that gives them that thirst to succeed. He says that he had to return back to the city in 2011 after completing his first degree in 2009 and did away with his one year at National Youth Service. He then enrolled in an industry as a worker after getting back there. He already had his sight on the startup scene.
Startups found in Lagos between 2011 and 2014 were a great motivation to him back then. But the city got to a critical point with time. Some startups started to receive patronages, media attention, collaboration with other corporations and definitely funding. A number of the factors acted as a catalyst for many people and gave them a thirst to put up something. There were great hopes, possibilities, and potentials in the ecosystem. Lagos has a population of around 21 million making it bigger compared to other countries in Africa. Bhattaccaryya backs up Chibozie’s sentiments. Lagos is the thriving home to a number of African renowned startups like Andela. A number of startups from Lagos are now getting international attention like Flutter Wave and Fluuter Stack. The two are working on solving the digital payment challenge in Africa. Apart from those, there are those startups that are also doing great, for instance, CCHub a co-working hub in Lagos. There is always the presence of US ACs that have an interest in investing in the country. The changing point came in 2016 when Mark Zuckerberg toured Lagos. Since then, there has been much interest developed towards the startups in Lagos.