In many countries in Africa, their young and growing workforce is fueling a technological revolution.
In Nigeria, for example, half of the country’s 182 million people are under the age of 30 signalling a fast-growing millennial population.
The minds of these young Nigerian adults have been stretched due to the pervasiveness of the internet.
Sadly, what we first noticed in Nigeria was an abuse of internet access. Many young Nigerians took to the dark art of scamming people online via social re-engineering initiatives using emails, a scheme broadly classified as Yahoo Yahoo (internet fraud).
Yahoo Yahoo made a lot of people rich, albeit illegally, which meant that someone somewhere was a victim. This evil act has given young Nigerians who do legitimate work over the internet a bad name. As a result, the international community rejects a lot of Nigerians Visa applications.
Much so, Nigerians who claim to be working over the internet, e.g. Software developers (“developers”).
A group of Nigerian developers have risen to the challenge of changing this narrative. They are gathering themselves periodically (in the form of meetups and conferences) to discuss the world of software development and encourage each other.
In this article, we caught up with one of the tech community meetup volunteers and speakers, in the person of William Imoh (aka "iChuloo" [eye-chulo] on social media and the internet).
For context, a lot of developers in Nigeria have adopted their social media handles as their middle names. For instance, Christian Nwamba introduces himself as "Christian 'Codebeast' Nwamba", and Prosper Otemuyiwa calls himself "Prosper 'Unicodeveloper' Otemuyiwa". It’s understandable as many of them have a large following online from fans who do not need to know their real names. In developer parlance, a name is an identifier (ID), so long people can map a personality to that ID; we are all good.
Below is our conversation with iChuloo on tech and its community in Nigeria.
Please tell us about yourself.
I'm a developer, developer advocate, lover of tech and solver of problems. I currently work full-time for Andela, a fantastic all-around company and most likely the best to work for in Nigeria. I’m an extrovert, and I love talking to people, about businesses and ideas. Besides, I love to travel and watch football - I love Manchester United.
What do you think about the narrative that young Nigerians that work on the internet are fraudsters?
That’s a common notion now. And it is absurd. It’s as a result of the lack of Education of the average Nigerian. Severally, I’ve had to argue with people about “remote working” as a developer. They say it’s a lie and not possible. And such things don’t happen. I believe if people were more educated not just about technology but properly educated, simple terms and situations like this would be better understood. It is like the concept of “going to work”, is enshrined in their thoughts and any other “more comfortable and better-paying alternative” is a clear scam. Most times, I give up [on explaining to people], and the conversation ends in “let’s see how long this lasts”.
Interesting, so, how did it all start for you in tech?
What do you think about the state of tech communities in Nigeria and Africa at-large?
The Nigerian and African tech scene is currently doing an excellent job with growing communities. However, we could do more by making a measurable impact and data-driven decisions within the community. While value can is evident in these communities, it is paramount that this value is nurtured and appropriately harnessed to ensure sustainability. Lastly, it would be great to see all these communities collaborate effectively.
If you were to start your career today, what would you do to get to where you are now?
I would learn a lot with the assumption that I don't know anything, meet as many people as possible, volunteer as much as possible and understand that some things take a bit of time, effort and require happiness through the journey.
Has there ever been a time you were discouraged?
So, I have been discouraged once, I took life less seriously and came back up. Put in necessary work and understood that once SMART effort is put in, all that remains is time (which will happen).
What is your advice for enthusiast coming into tech?
In these parts, you have to learn a lot to stay afloat, be good at something but have an idea of a bunch of different things. Your health is important. Meet as many people as possible. Look beyond the money.
One thing that makes you proud?
The future we (ambitious young Nigerians) are all building.
To summarise, the developer community in Nigeria is not yet at its peak. And we still have a long way to go in changing the narrative that young Nigerians working on the internet are fraudsters. With people like iChuloo at the helm of building the future, we are definitely on our way there.