Jack Patrick Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, and Square — a financial services and mobile payment company — arrived in Lagos, Nigeria on November 7, 2019 as part of his November African tour.
The American techpreneur and billionaire had announced in October that he would be spending all the 30 days of November with entrepreneurs in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. Expectedly, the announcement sparked excitement on the continent, particularly in the Nigerian techosystem, because there are precedents that these visits bring good tidings — regardless of whatever label, "selfie galore" or "hangout of senior tech bros", the uninitiated might have given Jack's visit.
Unsurprisingly, Jack's itinerary was nothing like any of the tech companies' executives who have visited Nigeria.
Headed to Africa for all of November! Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa. Going to spend a lot of time with entrepreneurs, including @betelhem_dessie @noelkudu @GETNETASEFFA! pic.twitter.com/PcLCw8LZwr— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 4, 2019
In the past three years, more than five executives of global tech companies have visited Nigeria — besides Bill Gates, who is more or less now "a family friend" to Nigeria as a result of his relationship with Aliko Dangote, Chairman and CEO of Dangote Group, and the work of his foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The top executives of global tech companies that have visited Nigeria include Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook (2016); Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google (2017); Chris Cox, Facebook's Chief Product Officer (2017); Mike Feerick, Founder and CEO of Alison (2017) Nat Friedman, GitHub CEO and Microsoft's Corporate Vice President (2019); and Lyor Cohen, Global Head of Music at Youtube (2019).
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, visit to Nigeria
In September 2016, Mark Zuckerberg was in Nigeria. During his three-day tour, Mark visited Co-Creation Hub (CcHUB) in Yaba — dubbed as Nigeria's Silicon Valley, Yabacon Valley, and Andela — the foremost Engineering As A Service company in Africa. He also held his signature town hall meeting with Nigerian developers and entrepreneurs at Landmark Event Centre, Victoria Island, and attended Aso Villa Demo Day.
Mark's visit did not only validate the efforts of the Nigerian tech bros and inspired tech enthusiasts, it also caused an up-tick in Facebook's investment and partnerships in the country. Earlier in June 2016, Mark had led Andela's $24 million Series B round, through Chan Zuckerberg Initiative — a limited liability company owned by him and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
While Mark's investment in Andela was believed to have motivated his African tour, Ime Archibong, Facebook's Director of Strategic Partnerships, who hails from Akwa Ibom, reportedly, facilitated the African tour.
Zuckerberg’s trip was long in the making. For many years, Ime Archibong has been bugging his boss to visit Nigeria. In August, a window opened up. Zuckerberg was to attend the Lake Como, Italy, wedding of his friend, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. From there, he would head down to Rome, doing one of the town hall-style sessions he prefers over speeches. It made sense to extend the trip by a few days for an African sojourn.
Consequently, after Mark visit to Nigeria (and Kenya), Facebook has launched: Express WiFi in partnership with Coolinks.ng and Tizeti; Free Basics; NG_Hub in partnership with CcHUB, Ventures Platform, CoLab, nHub and Roar Nigeria; Facebook for Creators trainings in partnership with Afrinolly; Facebook Developers Circle Lagos; and Digify PRO in partnership with Digify Africa.
Later in 2017, when Chris Cox, Facebook's Chief Product Officer, made a trip to West Africa (Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal) from February 27 to March 6, 2017, he reiterated the position of his boss and tried to understand how Facebook and Instagram can support the region's content creators.
Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, visit to Nigeria
10 months after Facebook CEO visited Nigeria, Sundar Pichai came to Nigeria in July 2017 for the inaugural edition of the Google for Nigeria event. The impact of his visit was far-reaching.
Before he visited, Nigerians were already equipping themselves with digital skills through the Google Digital Garage. But during his visit, Sundar announced Google's commitment to training 10 million Africans in digital skills over the next five years. Hence the current approach of organising free digital skills training in partnership with companies like ziqora.
Sundar's visit also birthed Google Launchpad Accelerator in Africa, with an on-site space in Lagos — the first centre outside the United States. Through the programme, Google has partnered with Andela Learning Community (ALC) to train 100,000 developers, gainfully employed Fola Olatunji-David as the Head of Startup Success and Services, and supported 35 African startups with equity-free funding and resources for growth.
Even though I didn't meet him, I got a job @google because @sundarpichai came to Nigeria in 2017. Launchpad Africa and training millions in Digital and software development skills were announced!— Fola Olatunji-David (@folasanwo) November 9, 2019
Thers's always a positive ripple effect from these visits! https://t.co/Nobhti3eNX
I got my prev. contract job at Google because of the visit as well. 2018 Google Impact Challenge was all about the commitment to support African nonprofits with millions of dollars. 36 nonprofits got a boost through grant funding and Google support.— Taslim O. (@taslimokunola) November 9, 2019
These visits are important! https://t.co/BZuVeOb5Qk
At subsequent Google for Nigeria events, different products and services have been announced, including Youtube Go, Google Station, street view, local accents for Google assistant and informal transit (bike and danfo) in Google Maps.
Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub, visit to Nigeria
In June and August 2019, Nigeria hosted Nat Friedman, GitHub CEO and Corporate Vice President at Microsoft, and Youtube's Global Head of Music, Lyor Cohen, respectively.
While Cohen's visit didn't do much for the Nigerian techosystem, Nat visit did. During his visit, Nat made stops at the usuals: CcHUB and Andela. He also visited Paystack — one of the leading fintech startups in Nigeria — and held meetups to engage with developers, especially those that contribute on GitHub — the leading open-source software development platform. Nat said, "Nigeria is one of the fastest growing developer communities on GitHub and we are really impressed. Consistently, for two to three years now, Nigeria has been growing as fast or faster than any other country on GitHub".
Present: Jack Dorsey, Twitter and Square CEO, visit to Nigeria
Jack traversed Lagos — mainland and island — meeting with techpreneurs and some popular personalities on Twitter from November 7—9. Then, spent November 10 —11 in Abuja. How he managed to navigate the notorious for Lagos traffic and bad road network explains how he's able to run two publicly-traded companies concurrently — even for Elon "Iron Man" Musk, it's only one of the two companies (Tesla and SpaceX) he leads that is public, Tesla.
Jack gave some clues on how he's able to run both companies:
- Both companies have great teams running daily operations
- He typically works approximately 18 hours/day — five hours meeting with Twitter executives in the morning and from 1:30 PM he meets with Square executives
- He also enjoys meditation and yoga to have a clear head
The obvious highlight of Jack Dorsey visit was offering Dara Oladosu, who developed the Quoted Replies bot, a job at Twitter.
The guy is shocked 😂 pic.twitter.com/SdDJZW2HAz— DAVID. (@DavidIAdeleke) November 8, 2019
And perhaps, receiving his
first mixed reality artwork from CcHUB.
Jack also did more than the ritual of global tech companies executives when they visit Nigeria: he held town hall meeting and bitcoin meetup, visited CcHUB, Andela and University of Lagos, had lunch and dinner with stakeholders in the tech community, visited Venture Platform in Abuja and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is a member of Twitter Board, and made a major announcement: to expand Twitter's workforce in Africa and plans to visit the country in 2020.
Despite the laudable success of visit, there were some shortcomings in his itinerary.
First, the miscommunication about his Q & A session with journalists at CcHUB.
That was a waste of my time and every journalist‘s. Jack stopped by for less than a minute, took pictures and that was it. None of this had to happen.— Aanu Adeoye (@aanuadeoye) November 8, 2019
It beats me how Jack would be in Lagos and not want to engage with journalists. Perhaps, the media house that hosted the town hall meeting later that day wanted all the exclusives — which is fair, but don't waste other people's time.
Media were invited to the Co-creation Hub in Lagos at 7:30 to meet Twitter's CEO on his first visit to Nigeria. Two hours later we're told we won't be allowed to ask him questions. https://t.co/bGCpH5xKdd— Emmanuel Akinwotu (@ea_akin) November 8, 2019
It is possible that there was some miscommunication and honestly this is what I suspect.— Moe (@Mochievous) November 8, 2019
Secondly, the photo ops. For a zen-sy man like Jack, he has taken more selfies and updated his timeline more than he did in October. Whether he genuinely wanted to take the selfies or he was nudged to take them, the photo ops gave many people FOMO. Hence the smoke they gave the "tech bro Twitter senior division".
What in the world is going on in tech bro twitter senior division?— Ozzy Etomi (@ozzyetomi) November 8, 2019
"I taught Jack how to say kiloshele"— Jola (@Jollz) November 8, 2019
"Jack likes my shoe"
"Jack and I with my pet Jackina named after Jack because I've loved twitter since Jack started Jacking on twitter" pic.twitter.com/9B97U0iokU
But berating these "senior tech bro" and reducing Jack's visit to mere photo ops is hasty conclusion and an inappropriate expression of unhappiness. We all have our idols and faves and there's no telling what we would do when we meet them. Some people would be hysterical when they meet Prosper "unicodeveloper" Otemuyiwa, Victor Asemota and Fisayo Fosudo.
The fact, which can't be discounted, still remains: these visits by global tech companies executives to Nigeria (and Africa) matter. Unsurprisingly, people that were throwing subliminal shades later got an invite and everyone's happy.
Lastly, the people enlisted to meet with Jack. The 42-year-old billionaire has undoubtedly met some of the great minds in the Nigerian techosystem and, understandably, he can't meet everyone. My peev with the guest list, however, is encapsulated by the fact that Dara Oladosu was almost not invited for the town hall meeting, which suggests that there would be some equally important people Jack should be meeting, but because they are afterthoughts, he might not meet them.
For instance, people that have championed social issues on Twitter with hashtags, including Segun "segalink" Awosanya (#EndSARS), and Ibrahim Abdullahi, Oby Ezekwesili and Aisha Yesufu (#BringBackOurGirls). As well as the likes of Emeka Okoye, CEO of CYMANTIKS Nigeria Limited, Seun Onigbinde, CEO of BudgIT, and Seun Osewa, Founder of Nairaland Forum.
Expected outcomes of Jack’s visit to Nigeria
Accompanying Jack Dorsey on his African 'listening and learning' tour are:
- Kayvon Beykpour, Co-founder of Periscope, which was acquired by Twitter in 2015, and now Product Lead at Twitter
- Parag Agrawal, Chief Technology Officer at Twitter
- TJ Adeshola, Twitter's Head of United States Sports Partnerships, formerly at ESPN
- Michael Montano, Head of Engineering at Twitter
One of the expected outcomes from Jack's visit would be to see Square launch in Nigeria (or any other African country). According to reliable sources, Flutterwave and Eyowo could be pursuing a partnership with Square in this regard. The CEO of Softcom — Eyowo's parent company, Yomi Adedeji, was one of the people that met with Jack.
Square is the ultimate business solution for business owners to accept payment and finance growth. No cap, I think it is more revolutionary than Twitter. Coincidentally, Square has launched a Youtube channel to train developers on how to implement its APIs, SDKs, and build payment platforms.
My favourite platform re @Jack isn’t even Twitter. It is @Square. What Square has done re payments in the US is nothing short of amazing. The sync between hardware & software is just 💯.— Moe (@Mochievous) November 9, 2019
Everyone from coffee shops to taxi drivers has an easier time processing payments on the spot
Another outcome will be to see more Nigerian developers like Dara being hired — Andela and Nigerian startups should brace up for impact.
Lastly, product education. The number of Twitter users in Nigeria pales against Facebook users because people don't know how to use Twitter well enough — even those that use it everyday don't understand all its features. This became obvious when Jack asked for #NigeriaTwitter list and people were dropping handles.
What are the best #NigeriaTwitter lists to follow? 🇳🇬— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) November 9, 2019
And yes, we could argue that Twitter is not for noobs but it is ridiculous that a veritable platform for social change like Twitter is understood by only a few. Also, Twitter influencers and amplifiers could use some lessons — just as Facebook has trainings for creators on its platform.
However, if none of these happens and there are no other actions after Jack's visit to Nigeria (and Africa), then his tour was mere photo ops.