A growing number of Nigerian tech developers are either planning to go abroad to ply their trade or looking to get international jobs while in Nigeria.
Oyewale Oyediran, who studied Computer Science at Obafemi Awolowo, is one of many Nigerian tech developers, who have left Nigeria. He left the country for Germany in 2018, and is now in Canada working for Twitter as senior software engineer, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Many Nigerian tech developers and entrepreneurs are making waves abroad. Nigerian-born Tope Awotona, founder and chief executive of Calendly, recently trended on social media for making it to Forbes’ list as one of America’s wealthiest immigrants.
While the tech ecosystem has seen an increase in the number of startups and tech hubs, attracting millions of dollars in investment, not a few Nigerian tech developers are angling to leave the country.
CIO, a tech and IT magazine, disclosed that the 10 most in-demand jobs for 2021 included programmer analyst, mobile app developer, software developer and engineers.
According to the US Bureau of Labour and Statistics, developer jobs will grow 22 percent between 2019 and 2029, which remains faster than the average rate of other professions.
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It has been reported that most African talents, many of whom are Nigerians, are finding their way to international startups, while they have a growing tech ecosystem to develop.
BusinessDay spoke with some Nigerian developers and they gave a sense of why they prefer to work for international organisations (some via freelance platforms).
Adeleke Abiodun, a software engineer and CEO, Abango Technologies Limited, explained that government policy remained one of the factors pushing Nigerian developers out of the country, citing strict restrictions and ban of many developer works in Nigeria.
According to Abiodun, the Nigerian government keeps restricting and putting on hold so many opportunities that should be leveraged for the betterment of the country and developers.
Citing the Twitter ban period, which lasted for seven months, he said, “I have so many friends whose market audience is strictly on Twitter, but the business died as a result of that single restriction. We say we want to liberate the young entrepreneurs in Nigeria, a lot of countries are using blockchain to build so many things to boost their economy but our government placed a ban on it, making developers flee the country for foreign offers,” he said.
The young developer described the experience of a friend working as a developer in one of the biggest companies in the United Kingdom as motivating.
“I was harassed by the Nigerian police because I was carrying a laptop, and before I could settle with them, I had already missed a conference and a million-naira presentation that I was invited to as a guest speaker.
This is the height of it all as they took me to the station and requested that I produce my business papers even after searching my laptop. I showed them some of my work and because they couldn’t see anything on me, I was told to produce my CAC documents and I had to miss that offer,” he said.
According to the developers, foreign clients value the mental health of their staff members and see them as assets.
Abiodun said, “There is no job security in the country, despite your level of experience. In Nigeria, most companies don’t value developers because they believe that one can easily be replaced once they leave.
“We go places where we get value, and that is why it seems like foreigners are hijacking our talents and workforce. I do lots of remote work and freelancing for international organisations where I get treated with due respect and also pay for consultancy. They value time but you can rarely see that here.”
Darlington Okafor, UI/UX web designer and CEO, NORWEBS designs, noted that the value of the naira to the dollar had been falling in recent years.
He said: “Most developers are enticed by being paid with dollars as well as the incentives that come with it.
“Some of these big companies like Amazon, Google and others have great incentives for people who work for them and the same is applicable to other tech companies abroad. I believe this is a major driving force for developers targeting foreign clients.”
Darlington stressed the need for a tech community that would drive the financing of developers’ ideas in Nigeria.
“The likes of Silicon Valley provide loan facilities to developers. Most Nigerian developers want to go out there and work with all those foreign companies to have access to these opportunities,” he said.
According to Nicholas Idoko, a web developer, most of the time, the foreign clients know what they want and would not try to exceed the boundaries of agreement or try negotiating with you in a funny way.
He said: “Although there are Nigerian clients who know what they want, a larger population of our local clients believe you should do the work practically free for them.
“Some will give you a web application to develop and along the line, they will add an external feature that is not even in the memorandum of understanding, thereby breaching the agreement but a foreign client will never do it.”