This tech talent exodus from Nigeria, how we go do?

Ope Adeoye 7 minute read

In the last 8 months or so, I think I may have heard more than a few rumours/reports of Nigerian developers, designers and other tech talent moving to Europe and the middle east. Now, it's hitting closer to home. Few of my colleagues have caught the bug. Interesting stories like "just 2 Skype sessions and offer came in", "Omo! $4,000 per month for less work than I am doing at the moment". It's happening.

What can Nigerian companies that need same talent do?

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. 

Okay, not so fast.

But check it, $4,000 * 360 = NGN1.44M per month. How many Nigerian techies with 5 years-ish experience earn that? How does a Nigerian company compete in a global marketplace where your basic means of exchange (the NGN) and quality of life will always put you at a disadvantage. Of course, I know it's not that simple, it's not exactly a straightforward conversion like that. I mean, higher taxes, bills and whatnot. But after it all checks out, give or take, it's still an upside versus our Buhari Nigeria. That guy is now working closer to the top line of tech in the world.

So, again, what can Nigerian companies that need same talent do?

Here's my thinking. Any attempt to play the "I pay well too" game is a lost battle. No point. The closest parallel I have to this is football. How can Kwara United or the Nigerian football league as a whole stop their best players from moving to Europe? No point. Europe is where it's happening. If a guy has the talent to play there, na bye bye.

I have two recommended options:

Give up and become a launch pad

Position like a breeding ground for talent that will leave you in 2-5 years for greener pastures. Actively put in a mechanism to "feed your team to Europe". If a company does this, word would get round that such a place is a fertile cross-over staging ground and may therefore give you a steady supply of the best. If the company actually formalizes this process in a very transparent manner, (like even hawking their guys abroad), the talent you hire may put in the time to await when e go reach their turn.

It is rumoured that when Clemence Westerhof was Nigerian Super Eagles coach, he was actively pushing the boys to Europe. You'd agree (not that I know much about football) that his era really gave us a steady supply of talent to work with and the local league was bubbling with activity.

I hear that football culture in Latin America is also like this. People develop their talent as breeding ground for the European leagues, leading to mad-ass development, kick-ass talent and a thriving local league.

If more and more Nigerian companies turn this into a movement, then I posit we'd see lots of people jumping on the "become a developer" train as their ticket out of this harsh environment.

Train the people you need

Actually roll up your sleeves and go create more talent. Darn it! Get into the schools. The NYSC camps. The churches. The hubs. And support the movement trying to create more tech talent. Or forget all that, design your own unique training programme, find one or two campuses where you "sell" this programme, and feed the output junior devs straight to your team as they are coming out hot hot.

They probably wont stay too long and they wont be rockstars. So you have to maintain a league of senior (wo)men that work in your company and are not going anywhere any time soon. These guys will be the coaches of the new intakes pending when they get off to a company that can pay better. Or move on to Obodo Oyinbo too.

I like some of the work I am seeing with forLoop,, internship, etc. There can't be enough of these efforts.

So yes, launch an academy of your own and train the talent you need. Be the Arsenal that takes them young and sells them high.

Of course these 2 suggestions require some thinking through and some pre-conditions that can support them to work.

Process: You need to have a tight internal process that understands churn is a thing. You know, how some sports teams have this play pattern that's so consistent, no matter who they put in, it's like a machine.

Culture: You need a culture that somehow even though enforces process, still recognizes that creativity thrives in entropy. Especially if you are getting them young.

Key people: You need some sort of "aro meta" kind of figures in your company. Long serving, big brother figures that have great coaching, leadership and mentorship skills. And are committed to your company for the long haul.

Some assets: You need to have a rich set of IP assets and components that help you build stuff easily without making your incoming/outgoing talent do too much first principles stuff. Libraries. Services. Digital assets. etc.

I'm sure there may be more things to do, but these are suggestions. 

I dont think this exodus will stop. In fact, I think it's just entering gear one. Folks that have gone are calling their guys and saying "Ol' boy, you still dey dat side? You be mumu oh!".

So, yes, rather than fight it, why not ride it.

PS: Have a better idea or counter recommendation? I love to debate things, so hit me up.