The Nigerian tech ecosystem is a burgeoning industry that has grown in leaps and bounds in the last few years. Startups have been rising, raising millions of dollars in bids to solve problems. But even as the ecosystem has been looking to solve problems, some problems have remained endemic, almost untouchable by the ecosystem.
As we approach the tail end of 2022, what are some of these problems that the ecosystem was unable to solve this year?
I arrived at this list by looking at the issues that rose to the top of the conversation and sometimes even spewed into the national arena and the promises the ecosystem has made but failed to accomplish throughout the year.
See below the problems that the ecosystem failed to solve in 2022:
Since ride-hailing became popular among young Nigerians, customers have raised issues about violent and gross unprofessionalism from drivers and passengers alike for years. Female passengers have raised concerns about gross harassment and sometimes assault that they face during trips from drivers.
An investigative report from the Rest of World in June this year shows that this pattern of behaviour has proliferated because some riders, especially on Bolt, use accounts that are not theirs. The report traces a network of drivers who buy accounts from licensed users.
Bolt customers all through the year went on social media to lament what sometimes is just a sheer non-interest from the company to solve some of these concerns. Drivers have also raised concerns about being assaulted and harassed by passengers. Then there is the problem of low profit-sharing policies by these ride-hailing companies with drivers, which are themselves not yet profitable.
From the start to the end of the year, these problems persisted, and the ecosystem failed to solve them.
The ecosystem has promised impactful healthcare solutions that will be powered by tech. But years later, only a wave of health insurance companies and medical professional marketplaces with apps catering to young millennials have risen. Heath tech remains a part of the ecosystem still challenging to discern what its cash cow will be.
This is partly because of minimal research funding and a substandard biotech industry.
Investors and venture firms that have sprung up in recent times are less willing to fund research into healthcare solutions that will be aided by tech. But would have fewer qualms throwing money at a startup with some promise.
Because the industry is more interested in raising money and building businesses rather than building solutions, it is almost difficult for any sustainable, tangible healthcare solution to rise from the health tech sector.
All through 2022, the promises of the tech ecosystem to redefine and better the lives of young Nigerians remained elusive.
Toxic workplace culture
This year, the problems of toxic work culture at tech companies were pushed into the public sphere. After TechCabal’s groundbreaking investigative piece about the toxic work culture at Bento Africa, the payroll startup, for days, young Nigerians working in tech went on social media to lament how their employers have mistreated them.
High-profile resignations by founders and other executives in the ecosystem, including most recently Risevest CEO really underscore how endemic allegations of bullying at many startups have become.
But this is not a new problem in the ecosystem. A series of lawsuits from disgruntled employees at the controversial unicorn Flutterwave has been propping up this conversation in private corners for years.
The problem of an unhealthy work environment, especially in the ecosystem, is that founders have billed the space as this unconventional workplace focused on solving problems with a relaxed culture. This year, it was brought to the public that this is far from the truth. In fact, there is very little difference between the young tech startups and the more traditional organisations they claim not to be like.
By large this year, the ecosystem failed to solve the problem.
A pan-Africa ecosystem
As tech companies bill themselves as pan-African, Kenya remains a hassle for many. Founders have struggled to get legal licences in Kenya, a key market for many startups looking to expand into East Africa.
This is partly because startup founders have evaded rigorous processes set by the Central Bank of Kenya and other regulatory bodies for financial institutions looking to establish outposts in the country.
Rather than engage the regulatory bodies, the CBK and the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) of Kenya, founders have looked for loopholes, most notably partnering with companies already licensed in the country to roll out their products.
This has led authorities in Kenya to take drastic measures against companies like Flutterwave and ChipperCash, which it has accused of not being licensed for operations in Kenya. The CBK also sent a notice ordering financial institutions to terminate all partnerships with these companies.
This poses a major problem for tech companies that claim to be pan-African, a problem that they were not just unable to solve but heightened all through this year.
It’s not that these problems are unsolvable. Still, the ecosystem frankly has not found them a priority enough to deploy resources into solving, even though solving them will mean a more profitable and all-around better ecosystem. Over the years, the ecosystem’s incentive has become big enough to attract more funds. With that type of mandate, the ecosystem will pursue an immediate turnaround in investment and pay less attention to these problems.
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