Currently 23rd on the global ranking of world economies, Nigeria is no top dog in world business but is certainly not at the bottom. In fact with the country’s constant magnetic pull on foreign investors and its ’emerging market’, Nigeria could just finally be on track to harnessing and realizing its economic potential. The Foreign Direct Investment in Nigeria is currently averaging at 1330.12 million USD from 2007 to 2017 and even though there was a decline after January 2017 (as one of the numerous effects of the recession), the stakes have started rising gradually since after an upturn of 1.40% in the economy announced in early September 2017.
One funny thing however is that when we speak about revenue in this country, a lot of people’s minds spontaneously drift to crude oil completely oblivious of the fact that Nigeria is currently experiencing its all-time low in the oil market. Reports from Bloomberg show that Asian investors are becoming more interested in American crude oil in recent times. The Economy Alert GDP report from PwC in March this year showed that the oil sector contributed to only 8.4% of the GDP. The massive fall of oil prices in 2015 along with other internal problems of poor regulation, vandalism and logistic irregularities have blighted the oil sector seriously. It is true however that crude oil remains Nigeria’s major source of fiscal and export revenue but from a broader perspective, startups are taking up the reins of the Nigerian economy.
I was reading an article last week by the business.com editorial staff on how the period between 1977 and 1995 proved to be a turning point for the US economy and ultimately shaped the world we have today. This was a period which witnessed the ‘big bang’ of several technological ideas from academia; the likes of Stanford and MIT and also the rise of tech giants from the creeks of Utah, New Mexico and Silicon Valley. We are talking about Apple (Silicon Valley), Microsoft (New Mexico), Oracle (Silicon Valley) and Novell (Utah). The article even went on to mention that 300 people became millionaires as soon as Apple went public; something I found really incredible. For those who know, what I’m about to say is very obvious. We are indeed witnessing the signs of a revolutionary economic shift in the Nigeria economy.
As of now, the focus is moving away rapidly from the government and the already established and long standing businesses. This is happening for several reasons. The government and the big companies we see published in stock market charts in the newspapers cannot handle the ever-growing yearn for employment. Thousands of young people graduate each year from the countless number of universities in the country and the rate of unemployment is on a constant upsurge. A vast majority of the population -millennials- are becoming increasingly disinterested in government positions or as we say here in Nigeria ‘the national cake’. With the high number of businesses going online and the pace of digital payment facilities, more and more Nigerian citizens are becoming entrepreneurial-minded.
The game changers
I will go over now to citing examples of individuals who are facilitating this change as further proof of the already very obvious. I’m a big fan of Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, co-founder of Andela and founder and Managing Director of Flutterwave. Iyinoluwa who co-founded Andela with Jeremy Johnson left the talent accelerator to found Flutterwave along with a team of ex-bankers and entrepreneurs. With their APIs (Application Programming Interface) Flutterwave is changing the payment structure in Africa and empowering the digital economy across the continent. Iyinoluwa who is only 26 years of age was nominated for the Forbes Africa 30 Under 30. Along with him on the list of nominees are other Nigerians Edikan Udiong, Founder of Oleander House, an online health shop and Shakeela Tolasade Williams, Founder of Sade Hair who both left their jobs in banks to become entrepreneurs. We can also talk about the likes of Chris Kwekowe, Founder of Slatecube who was all over the media for turning down an offer from Microsoft, Shola Akinlade, Co-Founder and CEO of Paystack and Jason Njoku, Founder and CEO of Iroko TV; our very own Netflix.
The list could still grow longer if you mention the likes of Ezra Oviosu, founder of Paga, Sim Shagaya, founder of Konga. Also, you can’t forget Uche Eze, founder Bellanaija and another blogging mogul Noble Igwe, founder of 360nobs. Right now there are hundreds of companies providing services in digital products design and there are several digital marketing agencies; a sector which is breaking new grounds. Lots of Nigerian youth have become popular online influencers and are helping startups get to their target audience and increasing their social media presence day by day. On the internet we see so many online shopping platforms, business directories, online service companies and even online rental agencies. Within these categories we can mention the likes of vconnect.com, tolet.com.ng, t-hub.com.ng and oxleyconsults.com.ng
You must have also come across many online tutorials and web hosting companies by Nigerian entrepreneurs. There are thousands of blogs owned privately by Nigerians who are making some ‘extra change’ off blogging and advertising platforms. It’s almost like a whole new business utopia is opening up. Ideas and new business concepts are springing up everywhere and there has never been a better illustration of the expression, ‘money changing hands’. The streets of Lagos are clogged with traffic but buzzing with ideas.
The streets of Lagos are clogged with traffic but buzzing with ideas
It’s a new wave
Of course Amy Jadesimi predicted this in her article for Forbes in 2015 titled ‘The Changing Face of Business In Nigeria’ but she was speaking plainly based on analytics of the innovation in the telecommunication and entertainment sector and the diversification in the economy. The change we are talking about now is much more individualistic, rampant and rapid. It is a change involving a new crop of young and tech-driven entrepreneurs. We are not speaking about the Dangotes, the Adenugas, Otedolas and Elumelus.
No doubt there is a ‘new wave’ in Nigeria. A lot of eyes across the world were opened to this when Mark Zuckerberg visited some tech hubs in ‘Yabacon Valley’ and on the Lagos Island last year. There is a frenzy in the Nigerian world of startups and that could be a good thing. The benefits of an economy driven by many startups are numerous; massive employment, wealth creation and foreign investment being some of the major ones. We could liken this revolution in the Nigerian economy to the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. If startups truly take up the reins, the horse is about to go much faster. We will certainly witness a huge empowerment of the middle class in society and a general increase in the standard of living but we will also witness an economic system so fast that those who can’t step on the accelerator will be sidelined.
Let’s watch where this wave will take us. Hopefully we will not hit the rocks. But one thing is certain; a revolution has indeed begun.