TECH AND 2021 (NIGERIA)
2021 positioned to be a year of hope and revival from the massive Covid-19 lockdown of 2020. The promise of economic revival and recovery, promise of freedom and travel, the promise of renewed social engagements and the simple opportunity to give/receive a hug and most importantly the promise of the VACCINE.
For tech, the resultant effects were felt in good, bad and fantastical ways. Let’s review TECH AND 2021 (NIGERIA).
Growth in crypto-trading and transactions started as early as January 2021 so much so that the Central Bank of Nigeria felt the effects on the foreign exchange and consequently “banned financial institutions from facilitating crytpo-related transactions” (Feb 2021). Nonetheless, enterprising “Nigerian Youths” continued to develop intelligent methods and technology to continue trading like peer-to-peer transactions etc. A testament to the fluidity and adaptability of the young Nigerian Tech industry.
The Central Bank of Nigeria also delivered its own Digital Currency, the e-Naira (Africa's first central bank digital currency), albeit a few weeks late, but more efficiently than a typical Nigerian project. The e-Naira was developed by a foreign-partner, Bitt Inc from the Caribbean (outrightly ignoring all the local Nigerian talent, experience and capacity available). So far, the e-Naira has been integrated with all major banks but has failed to show any significant growth or usage. Would it be embraced by the youths that it ignored? Or would it thrive through improved financial inclusion? Let’s see how it fares in 2022.
In the market, Crypto displayed months of growth (Jan – Mar), months of heartache, decline and funny memes (Apr-May) and a huge peak in October 2021. Through all the drama, Crypto market capitalization doubled from ~$1Trillion in Jan 2021 to ~$2Trillion in Dec 2021.
Ironically, by the end of 2021, Nigerians were more capable of trading crypto as at Dec 2021 than before the ban in Feb 2021……aka #WeMove
VC INVESTMENTS AND THE CONTINOUS RISE OF NIGERIAN UNICORNS
Nigeria maintained its lead in securing VC investments, collecting a staggering 35% of all startup funding that came into Africa in 2021! The total value of investments received were a stunning $1.37Billion. It would seem there is still so much promise in Nigeria. My friend once told me “Nigerians are running abroad to make money, foreigners are running to Nigeria to make money. There is money everywhere, what is important is your perspective”.
Nigeria added another unicorn to its portfolio, FLUTTERWAVE who raised a $170m under a valuation of $1Billion. Nigeria also has a majority of Unicorns in Africa including Paystack and Interswitch. #eChoke
TWITTER SHUN AND BAN
Now let’s discuss some wahala (…aka trouble). Earlier in 2021 (April), Twitter publicly shunned Nigeria and selected Ghana as the destination for its first office in Africa. Ghanaian Twitterverse claimed this bragging right as an opportunity to mock their fellow Nigerians and kick-off the annual jollof rice , Ghana versus Nigeria battle which took place for a few days and ending with Nigeria licking its wounds but surviving to fight another day.
Fast-forward to June, two days after a controversial tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari was deleted, the operations of Twitter in Nigeria were suspended. The government had suffered serious insults and backlash from twitterverse since the #EndSars protests in 2020 till the day of the ban in 2021. Part of their reason to justify the ban was that twitter was promoting fake news and was seemingly uncontrollable and not regulated. Twitterverse on the other hand claimed that the government were simply afraid of the sharp and dissenting opinions of the people and banned the platform as a knee-jerk reaction to Twitter deleting the Presidents tweet. Both sides seemed to have some merit to their arguments.
There were also several outlandish claims that Nigeria was losing hundreds of billions of naira per day due to the ban, however no tangible fiscal impact was noticed nor recorded.
Nonetheless, twitterverse yet again showed their adaptability and moved towards the use of VPN. The government had made 6 prerequisites for Twitter to meet before rescinding the ban. After several negotiations, the latest news is that Twitter has met the conditions and would be back soon! This would be a serious #SquidGame, let’s hope twitter would survive.
This sounds like a simple topic, but in 2021 there were some fantastical opportunities in the industry concerning remote work. Primarily, the concept of doing multiple jobs in multiple countries at the same time. Nigerian tech talent was in hot demand in 2021 (and perhaps still is), so much so that people are engaged in several jobs, earning several salaries at the same time. There are several interesting angles to this new trend, let’s look at 4 popular cases:
a. An engineer performing 2 or more jobs at the same time
b. An engineer emigrating to another country, keeping his/her job in Nigeria and starting a new job in the new country.
c. Engineers earning in dollars while working from home in Nigeria
d. Engineers working in Nigeria for multiple local companies.
*Engineer could be developer, tester, product manager, scrum master etc.
Remote work is now a norm and is providing so many job opportunities in the Nigerian Tech industry. The “Lazy Nigerian Youths” are now HOT CAKE! #UAR My Country, nna weldone.
NEW SOCIAL MEDIA REVENUES
Did you hear that Tiktok was the most visited portal/website in 2021 (had more visitations than Google)? What does this mean? Content is the new crude!
More interestingly, Nigeria took over the world! Asides the fact that Nigeria became a driver of global trends on social media, there were so many great instances of an outright take-over. A good example is the song “Love Nwantiti” by Ckay with 15 Billion tiktok views and toping the Youtube weekly chart as No.1 with ~74million views. To put it in context, it was streamed more than Beyonce!
Nigeria’s dominance in 2021 was fittingly rounded up with the ‘Dorime Ameno remix by Goya Menor and Nektunez’, just a simple reminder that we are still in-charge. If you want to chill with the big boys, come to Nigeria. #WhoDeyBreeet !
META OR METAVERSE??
In 2021, Facebook changed its name to META in October as an indication of their new focus towards developing a metaverse of the future. It may seem Facebook/META is a getting a head-start but this is not true. There are existing metaverses widely used around the world and also in Nigeria. To name a few, Roblox, Fortnite, Minecraft and Animal Crossing. A great number of Nigerian children are already using Roblox and Minecraft across their schools and laptops. Facebook/Meta would have some catching up to do, but their entry into the market has boosted the prospects for the entire eco-system. For 2022, watch-out for the extension of the metaverse into crypto, digital real-estate, gaming, tokens and more. Trading in metaverse real estate has already started with lowest prices at $13,000 to secure a digital plot of land! #NoBeJujuBeThat ?
I would not like to call it drama, but it was really a year of Government dramatics in tech. From crypto ban to twitter ban to social media regulation. From the challenges of NIN Registration to the ever-shifting deadline to deactivate sim cards. From confusion about the impossibility to transmit election results electronically (in the 21st century!) to the sale of license for the most modern telecoms technology; 5G. A country selling license for 5G cannot transmit election results using 2G??
On the good side, the Start-Up bill was signed. Effectively creating a framework for promoting and regulating the startup eco-system in the country and there were some progressive discussions with the management of Twitter about rescinding the ban.
2021 deserved much more positive input from the Government, perhaps 2022 would be better.
To be fair to the Government, let’s consider some global trends:
- Crypto is restricted in over 51 countries in the world.
- Social media is regulated in the USA and other developed countries.
- Facebook and other social media platforms are regularly fined and pay taxes to many countries.
- Several countries are also developing their own digital currencies to compete with or take-over from crypto.
- The concept of fake news is real, global and has serious effects on societies all over the world (think about the Covid-19 vaccine, 5G and the conspiracy theories).
That being said, regulations, laws and policies must be designed and implemented in good spirit, purpose and in the correct context. Anything other than that, you would face resistance and backlash from the tech community. I will leave you to judge if the Federal Government’s approach to these matters have been appropriate.
#If You don’t Gerrit Forget About It