#60Together: How Nigeria’s Policy and Reality Compare

Factual Pursuit of Truth for Progress

By Kristi Pelzel


Since Nigeria’s 60th Independent Anniversary has passed, we can reflect on the milestones and challenges ahead. When we take inventory of President Buhari’s speech and policies launched during his administration and then compare them to a small startup’s perspective, we gain another way to measure success. 


Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship


The creativity, ingenuity, and resourcefulness of the Nigerian at home have resulted in globally recognized endeavors. I am convinced that if we pursue our aspirations, TOGETHER, we would achieve whatever we desire. That informed our adopting the theme TOGETHER, to mark this epochal event.“- President Buhari (10/01/2020) 


Ore Afolayan, Head of Marketing and Strategy at a small tech startup in Nigeria, shared his perspective on the cross-section of technology and policy as it’s translated into business and the realities of life on the ground. 


“We started in 2017 as a web platform connecting brands with influencers, enabling businesses to scale up through ‘Influencer Marketing’. To achieve this, we maintain a responsive website and web app involving the maintenance of a frontend, an interactive backend for clients, an education portal, and a payment portal. Today, due to an improvement in technology, our business has evolved.” 


“We are also contributing to Nigerian business development and helping to build professional capacity for people to learn employable skills such as data analytics. Our rural-urban migration project helps graduates of our training programs pair with organizations close to where they reside.” – Afolayan


One example of the administration’s policy to action effort is the ‘Application for Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support Scheme,’ launched by the National Information Technology Development Agency in July 2020. This program acknowledged that Hubs and Startups in Nigeria suffer from capacity deficiency issues such as the ability to support startups, inadequate infrastructure, and the high cost of running their operations. 


Although Nigerians are creative, resourceful, and able to navigate a way forward – sometimes with support from the current administration – there is work to be done.


Challenges and Needs for the Future of Small Businesses


Today, I am aware that our economy, along with every single economy in the world, is in crisis. We still face security challenges in parts of the country, while our society suffers from a high loss of moral rectitude, which is driven by an unbridled craving for political control.” – President Buhari (10/01/2020) 

There are challenges due to COVID-19, but there were challenges before the pandemic as well. Basic needs were lacking before and they still lack today as Afolayan describes.


“Governments need to review the education curriculum to ensure preparation for the digital economy that is almost here. 


“Providing tax breaks for small and medium businesses will help MSMEs, hence cutting down on marketing, hiring, and other costs. A tax break will enable businesses to stay stabilized/or grow.


“Nigerians need infrastructure such as power supply. The power supply in Nigeria is terrible and causes us to leverage alternative means of generating power, which is very expensive. Our staff is equipped with the technology and the skills we need to be successful, and now we need the government to provide consistent basic resources at a reasonable and fair cost to support our long-term goals.” – Afolayan


Supporting Innovation Requires Supportive Policy 


It has been demonstrated time and time again that Nigerians in the diaspora frequently excel in science, technology, medicine, sports, arts, and many other fields.” – President Buhari (10/01/2020) 


While Nigerians have the ability to excel, they still need support. Government policy doesn’t always translate into change, and this can demotivate creatives and entrepreneurs. 


“Often, government policy negatively affects tech startups. An example is the ban on commercial motorcycles (popularly known as Okada) in Nigeria’s economic capital. This government policy affected bike-hailing startups that sought to use technology to solve Lagos’ transportation problem. Harsh government policies can stop tech development growth and help to accelerate it through education and digital literacy. Also, if 75% of our nation could operate a computer, it would be a turning point.” – Afolayan


Lagos experienced widespread disruption following the ban on motorcycle and tricycle taxis, known as ‘okada’ and ‘keke’. Commuters were left stranded, faced fare hikes, and packed public transport. Drivers also suffered the loss of income following the ban.


Nigeria’s Future from Within and Globally


The government can help startups by keeping the inflation rate in check, focusing on skills and employment, and launching more programs that help to absorb the cost of skilled staff while startups stabilize in the market. 


“Nigeria’s inflation rate rose to 12.82%. The government could create employment support schemes that will pay a fraction of startup team member salaries, as well as for graduates of our learning program, who are waiting to be absorbed into an organization’s workforce.” – Afolayan


Global organizations can help Nigerian startups by maintaining virtual relationships and providing consistent support. They can also help to absorb the high cost of the hardware needed to adopt new technology. 


“Global Organizations can provide a platform where graduates of our program can have virtual internships with them. Marketing tech companies that sell SaaS products can give discounts to help reduce costs while scaling up.” – Afolayan


It’s great to hear that a small tech-startup business in Nigeria is managing during these times, highlighting their reach across employment, education, and business development. At the same time, I can only image how difficult it’s been for President Buhari’s administration to balance filling the vast deficit in basic human needs the administration inherited, with bridging the economic gap for growth and innovation.


Fellow Nigerians, let us collectively resolve to continue our journey beyond the sixty years on the clear understanding that as a nation, we are greater together than being smaller units of nationalities. By the special grace of God, we shall come through any transient challenges.” – President Buhari (10/01/2020) 


Kristi Pelzel is an international communications consultant and advisor working across U.S. and African markets. Her industry experience spans 10 years in broadcast, digital, and social media communication. Kristi holds a B.A. from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California, and an M.A. from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. 




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