The conversation over how much a remote developer can earn in Nigeria has been raging on social media since ‘UI/UX designers’ started appearing in Twitter bios.
The Web3 crusader, Clement Hugbo in a recent interview claims to have left his fancy job in oil and gas to become a Web3 developer. A move that he said saw him begin to earn over $15,000 a month or a whopping $180,000 a year within a few months.
These salaries have raised questions about how much tech bros earn, elevating many to a new status nearing the one per cent of the one per cent. But an interview with an expert on the matter reveals that it’s very unlikely that a developer based in Nigeria, working for a company abroad that pays in dollars, will earn as much as 100,000 dollars per annum.
Why do companies employ remote developers?
Typically organisations that employ remote developers and engineers are looking for junior developers to assist on projects. The junior developers then work with a senior developer with a wealth of experience of about six years at least. The senior developer could also be working remotely but even then, he will be based in the home country of the company. This will mean that many of the developers who earn dollars in Nigeria are working as junior developers.
Eyitayo Ogunmola, who describes himself on LinkedIn as a “tech and Web3 Evangelist” is the founder of Utiva, a global talent development company. What Utiva does is link companies abroad with tech talent in Nigeria. The talents then earn dollars or pounds depending on the country the company is based in while working in Nigeria. Eyitayo in an interview with Technext said that the kind of salaries that make it to the blogs and rise to the top of the Twitter trend table are many times too good to be true.
“To be honest, I haven’t seen that happen. I know that there are extreme cases, but I honestly cannot pin an organisation that will pay you a hundred thousand dollars per annum as a junior developer,” he said.
He adds that it will be most unlikely that a developer in Nigeria earns that much because, for starters, there are restrictions that local regulators place on the salaries that offshore talent earn.
“By this government regulation,” he said “if someone is going to pay you that amount of money, then they have to report it to either IRS or HMRC [ regulators for the US and the UK respectively ], and the question for the IRS will be ‘Are there not people in that country that you can be paying that amount of money? Most often than not, the organisation will be fined…The only time you can pay that type of money is if that person has an exceptional talent that you can’t find locally.”
But not everybody agrees that it is unthinkable.
Sultan Akintunde, who is known by the moniker HackSultan, is the co-founder of AltSchool, an academy that trains tech talent and links them up with companies looking for their skill, says it is possible. In a Twitter thread he posted last weekend, he argues that it can be possible for a developer with at least six years of experience.
“On average of 6years+ experience working, learning and growing yourself, you can hit even a bigger number,” the tweet says. But he acquiesces that it can only happen with a stroke of luck.
“It’s not easy, but not impossible. There’s no cheat code, luck self is there,” he says.
Because many of the developers that work in Nigeria and earn dollars are working as junior developers, “there is really no incentive to pay a junior developer that much,” Eyitayo said.
But he added that “there is a chance of earning up to that” as an offshore developer if you work on multiple projects with multiple companies. But even then, he said that the developer will be earning an average of 80,000 dollars altogether which he said would be an extreme case because the developer will have to “stretch him/herself a lot to meet the demands of the organisations.”
Because of the experience that one needs to become a senior developer and lead a team, in the international market, senior developers are usually people with at least an average of six years of experience.
This accounts for the gross pay disparity between senior and junior developers, which Eyitayo says can be as wide as 500 per cent. But in Nigeria where developers are operating in a relatively new field, they graduate to senior roles faster especially when they work for Nigerian companies.
Even then, their Naira salaries don’t meet the high numbers pushed on social media. In a poll by Technext, seventy-five per cent of respondents who work for Nigerian companies as developers say that they earn below 200,000 Naira per month.
According to Payscale, 150,000 naira seems to be the average range developers working for Nigerian companies earn, a number that Eyitayo says is low for a technical job but is what these companies can afford. This will mean that Nigerian developers are earning less than 4000 dollars per annum working for Nigerian companies.
But some companies have listed salaries between 400,000 to 600,000 naira per month for developers but only for c-suit roles on platforms like Indeed and LinkedIn.
Companies like Utiva which recruit for foreign companies have been springing up in recent times. This has created a clash between what constitutes senior and junior developers in the tech ecosystem.
Rapid River, an American firm that recruits tech talent across the world for mostly Silicon Valley companies now has a physical presence in Nigeria, the result of a partnership with HNG Internship, a Nigerian company that develops and mentors tech talents.
The talent that they recruit, mostly junior engineers receive between 2,000 to 4,000 dollars per month. But Rapid River has seen talent who apply for roles as senior developers who, based on their standards, are still juniors. Nick Marden, Rapid River CEO, at an event the company held with some prospective developers this year told them that only those with strong experience of at least six years should describe themselves as senior developers if they want to be taken seriously.
Rapid River, just like Eyitayo, says it doesn’t focus on employing senior developers in Nigeria but will consider extremely exceptional talents.
Even then, getting the remote junior developer role is hard and tasking, not to talk about the senior role. “It’s either you cling to the Utiva or AltSchool of this world,” Eyitayo said. “The second will be to have a robust portfolio and organisations are really looking for you,” he said, adding that however, it will be very difficult to find the organisation and send them your portfolio.
Then why do people inflate their salaries on social media?
It’s not that it’s entirely impossible to earn 100,000 dollars and above, but it’s not as common as people on social media say. This is in part because there are restrictions on the company to only employ senior developers from their home country. But also because many Nigerian developers will be graded as junior developers by international standards. By inflating their salaries on the internet, they stand a chance of forcing Nigerian companies in need of their skills to pay them above local market rates.
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