Despite the significant growth in the number of women working in technology and IT roles, female representation in Nigeria’s tech ecosystem has tolled over the last number of years.
While efforts are underway to address this growing concern with companies creating more resource groups to help them grow their diverse teams, there seems to be minimal development in this regard; the gender gap still remains wide.
Recently on the Tech Trends show, I had a conversation with Uju Obuekwe, Founder, Smarta Work who enlightened us on germane reasons we need to bridge the existing gender gap in Nigeria’s tech ecosystem.
CFA: Uju, glad to have you on Tech Trends today.
Uju: Thank you so much for having me.
CFA: Awesome! Let’s start by looking at Nigeria’s startup ecosystem. How would you rate it today?
Uju: Well, it’s really fast-growing. In Nigeria, I think in 2019, Nigeria startups had raised about 700 million dollars. Yet, when you compare that to the Indian startup ecosystem where they’ve raised over 63 billion dollars, you’ll see that we still have some ways to go.
CFA: You mentioned India and I wonder. Do you think that our startups have a chance to compete globally like Indian startups are doing?
Uju: Definitely! We’ve had some real success stories like Paystack that got acquired and Flutterwave that is at a $1 billion valuation today. In edtech, we have ULesson which has raised a significant amount of money. Also, we have people in renewable energy and some of them are scaling across Africa. So, yes. We do have that potential.
CFA: All right. What are some of the ways that we can actually grow our ecosystem and I think I will use the word consciously, maybe that’s what is lacking?
Uju: When you look at places like India, the government has a separate fund for startups but a lot of initiatives in Nigeria don’t have a separate fund for startups.
Startups are different from SMEs and most of the funds are kind of geared towards SMEs. If you judge startups by those metrics, they won’t be eligible for funding since startups need a lot of money to grow.
They have a different set of criteria one needs to judge them- their prototype development proof of concept and things like that. Hence, understanding Nigeria’s tech ecosystem is very crucial and we need policies that enable and improve participation. We need more incubations and accelerators.
CFA: Let’s dive deeper into that. From your experience what are some of the challenges that you think startups face today?
Uju: Number one is funding because, as I said, startups need a lot of money to grow.
You can watch the full interview here.