Don’t you just love it? The foreigners show up on Nigerian soil, enjoy the benefits of working in the Nigerian terrain, and there are many benefits that come with it, or else they won’t be there. And just in case those who claim to be Nigerians (who technically are in the same boat like the foreigners i.e. born and raised overseas) have a sense of entitlement and begin flexing muscles in the Nigerian market that the foreigners have dominated, or use the word “local”, the foreigners get vexed, and take the Yankeefied Nigerians to school in an opinion article on Tech Cabal that essentially says, “Don’t get it twisted Jason Njoku, Mark Essien and the likes of you. We got this on lock down.”
Marek Zymslowski an executive at Jovago.com does exactly what I just described and what’s interesting is that he says he is calling the “hypocrisy” out in Nigeria’s tech startup space?? *Confused face?” When did Nigerians stop favoring the white man, even from a poor country like Poland, over their own?
Why is he feeling that insecure? What hypocrisy is there to call out? You are vexed because there are new players in the marketplace, they are your competitors and they use the “local weapon?” Okay, so? Get over it. Come up with a better strategy.
This guest post should not be read as an official statement from the Managing Director of Jovago.com, Rocket backed African venture. This post doesn’t reflect company’s views in any way. It just comes from a dude who happened to be quite active for couple years in the Polish startup scene before he moved to Nigeria.
I worked in startups, I launched them, I raised capital and exited them. Others I mentored. I’ve seen how the ecosystem evolved in Poland. I can compare it now with what I see is going on in Nigeria. Obviously, there are many differences. But pointing them out is not that much fun. It’s too easy and every malcontent can do it for himself, feel free.
There are some similarities between Poland and Nigeria, which allow me, to some extent, to make some (just some) assumptions for NG, based on the Polish story.
To begin with, Poles and Nigerians are very entrepreneurial, active and creative. Sometimes maybe even too creative. We both are tradition oriented and God plays a huge part in the society. Not particularly when we party though.
Polish culture and language was able to survive even though Poland vanished from the map of Europe for more than 100 years, because some “royals” started to care more about their wallet then their country (ring a bell?).
Yoruba culture was able to survive in Brasil and Cuba, despite the hard times African people had to go through. The amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 was organised by someone from the outside, but Nigerians have been able to keep the country together till this day despite domestic war, many coups and tribe conflicts of interests. Kudos for that.
Well, Poland sucks at football. Nigeria definitely doesn’t. This is why we convinced Emmanuel Olisadebe to play in our national team in Japan/South Korea 2002. Sorry for that.
Last, but not least we both have the most beautiful women (Duh! Miss World: Agbani Darego, Aneta Kreglicka. And Yes, I know you’re googling her now.)
Polish economy was choked by communist influence until Lech Walesa led us to freedom and inspired other East European countires to do the same. Our walk to economic prosperity started for good in the early 1990s. To simplify, let’s say that similar ignition towards growth started in Nigeria after Abacha’s death in 1998.
World financial crisis in 2008 actually helped Poland, our banking system wasn’t sophisticated enough to be influenced by the financial instruments that caused the crisis. So Polish GDP growth started to look way better compared to other European countries. The same crisis, as well as the DotCom bubble made many foreign educated Nigerians come back to their home and contribute to the growth of Nigeria with their international skills. Nigeria is now one of the growth leaders in Africa, just like Poland in Europe.
Polish Startup Scene
The Polish startup scene had issues and was born in huge pains. People claiming there’s were not enough investors and “foreigners are taking over”. Then, believe it or not, there was a problem of “too much money” in the market, which resulted in investing in very stupid ideas and unreliable people.
There were pessimists stating Poland will never build anything bigger than a local copy of something from US. Nowadays, Poland leads in 3D printing, Bluetooth beacons, we have worldwide appreciated SAAS solutions (LiveChat, Brand24, Nozbe) and Game Developers (The Witcher, Sniper). Polish Parcels (Inpost) contribute to ecommerce growth by optimising logistics in 50+ countries. Our startup scene is flourishing. And we managed to achieve all that mostly because of factors so criticised lately in Nigeria.
Foreign “Rocket” vs. “Local” competition
In general, Rocket companies don’t get involved in these kinds of disputes. Most of the time it’s a waste of energy. The competition won’t stop disliking us if we prove their arguments don’t hold water. Building a product people will love is exhausting enough. That’s what we care about. Only that will bring us satisfaction and profit. We just do our thing; we invest, build companies. We’re good at it and every thinking person will understand the longterm benefits of our presence in a particular country. These are most important.
We create the market by making people start doing online purchases, bookings, etc. We convince suppliers to expand the operations online. This would happen without us as well, but not that fast. We may be a so called online company, but the amount of field work we do is mindblowing. Especially in the marketplace business models we focus on. Every other player after us will have it so much easier to enter the market. Jason Njoku’s case of Facebook and Nairaland building scale without heavy marketing is simply missed, because it’s a totally different product, and different context.
We hire young, ambitious people, that don’t necessary have the skills in place, but have the potential. Not everyone has a family that will send them abroad to study, just like it happened to most of Nigerian startup scene’s heroes. (Lol! No Marek you didnt?)
What happened in Nigeria, and I can’t really recall similar situation from outside Africa, is that our competitors started to use the “local” card as a marketing weapon. I don’t mind the fact itself, it’s always good to get free publicity. It’s just the level of hypocrisy and populism I felt I needed to comment on. . . “
Tech Cabal has the full story.