On January 24, 2020, serial Entrepreneur and CEO uLesson, Sim Shagaya announced a “counterintuitive” decision to make Jos his company’s tech hub.
Jos is a city in Plateau State located in the middle belt of Nigeria. Despite being regarded as the “home of peace and tourism”, it is within reach of possible unrest in the North. While in Jos, uLesson maintained a sales office in Ikeja, Lagos and flew prospects to Jos for final interviews as part of their marketing and talent recruitment strategy.
However, it did not take too long for Mr Shagaya to realise that his “smartest decision” could not beat the unsurmountable mountains in Jos.
"Our ability to develop for and distribute to this African market means we have to move to a city with better regional flight connections and to which we can more easily attract the talent we need.", reads a December 2020 comment from uLesson.
It has been over four months since uLesson’s departed from Jos and the questions remain; how many more startups need to go before Jos and Plateau State emerges as a viable home for tech startups in the country? How is Jos nurturing the talents that will work at these startups?
How is the Plateau State ecosystem positioning itself to produce the needed Talents?
Until the Code Plateau Bootcamp, Joshua Abiola did not have any professional experience in software development. "I was just a teacher in a private school in Jos, the salary was very poor. I was frustrated", Abiola told Benjamindada.com in an interview.
Code Plateau is an eight-month immersive bootcamp focused on human capacity development and job placement. The Plateau State ICT Development Agency developed the bootcamp’s curriculum. Code Plateau is for young people who want to start their career in information technology (IT) and kickstart their portfolio of real-life projects. These projects will be built using modern technologies.
Since the bootcamp, Joshua has landed a role with a Lagos-based NGO but works remotely.
"We dived in and through various concepts, taking them one at a time, sequentially. I subscribed for web development, the Backend. We went from being introduced to a new operating system, Linux to learning and understanding version control system, Git and Github, html, CSS, bootstrap, then the basics of the python programming language, data structure, algorithms, functions, importing and using of modules, test driven development and object oriented programming amongst others. We took a tour through MySQL for databases then we got into the Flask Framework and jinja template for the Backend development, and we’ve been doing some amazing things with it ever since," Joseph Emmanuel, one of the cohorts narrated.
So far, Code Plateau has trained 80 youths on Software Development and Digital Marketing, other platforms are also coming up with initiatives that will nurture talents in the Plateau.
Talent is not really lacking in Jos
JohnPaul Nwobodo, a co-Founder of Elesaro—a Jos-based crowdfunding startup— argued that talent is not really lacking in Jos. He said that what is absent is media visibility and supporting infrastructure—like frequent regional flights.
According to JohnPaul, "the presence of different technology co-working spaces and innovation centres across the state has played a crucial role when it comes to bridging the talent gap. 90% of the hires in my companies are from Jos."
"Also, programmes like Code Plateau have contributed to the development of tech talents in the State. Before uLesson, SmartWeb has been here and is still here", he adds.
Mr Nwobodo further emphasised that," there are so many other local startups and talents that are rising up---lack of media attention has also affected their visibility.
uLesson’s departure is not a reflection of how bad it is to do business in the State. Jos can house big profitable ventures but availability of technical talent—proficient engineers, designers, product managers—is key.
The State Government through the Plateau state Information and Communication Technology Agency (PICTDA) in collaboration with the private sector are actively working to reduce the talent shortage.