The widening IT gap among Igbo Youths – A time for a rethink

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By Don Ebubeogu

When the Nigerian new scape was awash with the news of the acquisition of Paystack, one of the headlines that got me thinking about Igbo Youths was the one by The Oasis Reporters that wrote – ‘Phone Pressing Nigerian Youths’ Develop Paystack App, Sell It To Stripe For $200M.

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Depending on the exchange rate, the deal is about N76B, for a business that has intangible assets, run by dreadlocks, torn jeans and painted fingernails wearing youths.

The news about Paystack took the Nigerian tech environment by storm and got a lot of Nigerians to take a more serious look at IT.

It has not been Paystack alone, Nigerian startups like Kudi, Tizeti, Flutterwave, Wallets Africa, 54gene, and Kobo360 have gone on to raise million-dollar funds from strategic investors who believe in the Nigerian startup ecosystem.

Just this morning, I read about FLUX. Flux is a mobile app for sending and receiving money, making and accepting payments in Africa, developed by software engineers – Ben Eluan and Osezele Orukpe.

An interesting article about them by Techcrunch reads, “a factor that eventually led to founding Flux was the university’s budding tech talent ecosystem, which is teeming with stories of prominent startups launched by alumni. Some include Jobberman, Africa’s largest recruitment site; Kudi and Cowrywise, two YC-backed companies and Farmcrowdy among others.

“These founders came from our school and it was a huge motivation for us. We always knew that we wanted to build something but we weren’t sure what this would be. We eventually landed on Joppa, then Flux,” Eluan shared.

In fact, according to Techpoint Africa, OAU alumni have founded startups that have cumulatively raised $1 million more than other alumni from other universities in West Africa.

OAU is fast becoming the Nigerian version of Stanford University, which gave birth to Silicon Valley.

When Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr, fondly called CFA within the IT corridors visited my office, he painted a picture of hopelessness among the youths, politicians and entrepreneurs of Igbo extraction who have not shown considerable interest in positively pushing IT development within the Igbo business environment.

As the Regional Director of Founder Institute in West Africa, CFA is an IT startup evangelist whose gospel has been ignored severally by our region because the youths are using their access and time on the internet negatively while the politicians and entrepreneurs are bereft of the inherent potentials of IT.

The Founder Institute is an American business incubator, entrepreneur training and startup launch program that was founded in Palo Alto, California in 2009.

While discussing with CFA, he told me about some startups in eCommerce in Nigeria that drive volume sales averaging about $50,000 daily with just their laptops and software. Online trading in Nigeria has grown in bounds within the last 18 months, fueled majorly by Covid-19 protocol.

It is ironic that as we are busy building more lockup shops with poor ventilation and illumination, besides foul-smelling dump sites and rats infested gutters, other regions are gradually positioning themselves technologically by using IT to stimulate transactions on goods and services, in the comfort of their homes and or small cosy office that looks more like a modern coffee shop with reading tables.

It was therefore a huge sign of relief when Uchenna Onwuamaegbu Ugwu  organized 6 weeks FREE training program in Onitsha for girls, which she called Digital Literacy Journey. She taught then computer appreciation, website designing and coding in general.

Uche was the lady that trained and took some secondary school girls to Silicon Valley and won a Gold medal in the 2018 World Technovation Challenge in the USA.

A good number of a new crop of billionaires in Nigeria will be drawn from agropreneurs and IT startups. Saddled with limited landmass for massive commercial agriculture, Igbo Youths should focus on the agric value chain and IT to develop a competitive advantage in both fields.

Information technology is the fourth revolution that has dramatically changed the lives of individuals and businesses throughout the world. It can change yours financially.

Let’s do more in South East. This is a call for a joint action.

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