Ecosystem

Lagos might survive the brain drain of tech talents, but other states are doomed

Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

Lagos, the most valuable of Africa’s biggest tech ecosystems is being highjacked by an excessive migration of it’s highly trained or qualified Software engineers to Europe, Canada or Berlin. it’s threatening the growth of Nigeria’s tech ecosystem and the survival of local startups to compete globally.

High-end talents are moving or are about to move and if Nigeria’s political class still consistently fail to deliver a better quality of life and quality infrastructures for citizens across various professions, there’s going to be a serious shortage of talents and lots of vacancies unfilled. it’s already happening.

Considering Lagos as the land of opportunities and with an economy significantly bigger than the whole of Kenya, if its going to take the state five years before it loses all of its senior engineers then its going to take other states in Nigeria one year to lose its intermediate engineers and the few seniors it has. it’s simple math, Software engineers leave Lagos for Canada or Berlin, Software engineers from other states leave for Lagos, they become good then leave the country and the cycle continues.

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Off the startups in Nigeria that raised funds in 2018, about 90% are headquartered in Lagos, more startups will set up shops and the amount of funding received in 2018 is expected to double in 2019. This translates to more software developers jobs. To fill these jobs, startups will have to open application to developers outside of Lagos and as expected there is a flood of applications from the outside. Although getting a well-paying job tops the list of why developers leave, there are a few other reasons.

Other states are affected

The South-SouthEast, for example, is a tech ecosystem that’s relatively still in its early days, startups raising funds or breaking even is still a challenge and if they do, they’ll move to Lagos or to a strong second option- Abuja. Only a few have decided to stay and employ local talents but sometimes has to outsource to larger ecosystems.

While calmly looking for the next unicorn, Hubs are also seriously investing a lot to ensure developer here(SSE) have the skills to compete globally, but that’s all it’s does “teach people” then leave them(developers) to a region with little opportunities, additionally limiting the range of problems they get to tackle. As an entry-level developer, working remotely isn’t the best option. “I think you need to reach a certain level of discipline first,” says Leo Anyanwu a frontend engineer based in owerri but works remotely for startups in Lagos and the UK “You need to sync/bond with the team first and possess certain skills like code flexibility and report management with reasonable years of experience before you opt-in for a remote job.” he told 4kreport.

“Without creating opportunities, education is useless”.

The region cannot compete with Lagos to retain its own talents, the infrastructures to get work done are underperforming and having little employment opportunities for software developers makes it even worst. what most developers here(SSE)do are side-gigs, creating landing page websites or building one or two git hub projects, chrome extensions and build tech communities to acquire just enough experience to land a job in firms and even startups in bigger ecosystems.

When they feel the time is right to go beyond the current ball game or to earn more, they move. The few working remotely for firms outside will eventually one day also have to move because the power situation and quality of internet connectivity required to keep up isn’t likely to improve anytime soon, unless according to Leo “The companies they work for remotely provides a stipend for extra power (generator) and maybe for a workspace & internet”.

Imagine there’s a total shortfall of high-end software engineers in Lagos(it’s gonna happen soon), startups there could still afford to hire from a different country. An example is payStack which hired Emmanuel Quartey from Ghana to handle customers growth and more recently hired Serkan Durosoy from Turkey for a frontend role. With large series of funding coming in, hiring really shouldn’t be a headache. PayStack also does have an office in San- Fransisco where it performs some of its engineerings.

Lagos could survive the brain drain of its tech talents but as long as retention opportunities are still very scars, other states(precisely in South-SouthEast) are faced with a reality of an aggressive brain drain in not just tech, in other professions too.

However, For the few elites engineers left, a hope for change, passion and a sense of ‘building our own’ fuels the reason for the stay. Thompson Nsikak, an Android developer at Start Innovation hub, Uyo says he has had lots of opportunities to relocate but rejected them. “I haven’t left yet because I believe I have a great work to do here in my region. I am passionate about growing more talents and develop the skills infrastructure, if everyone leaves, who would stay and rewrite the story?”

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