sometimes, I make a lot of sense.

Category Archives for: Technology

Remita, TSA and Four Questions Arising

17 November 2015 by Oo Nwoye

With the full implementation of the TSA policy by the Buhari Administration, SystemSpecs a Nigerian technology company has been accused of swindling the country of billions of Naira using Remita, a product of the company.

The aim of this blog post is to explain Remita’s role in the implementation of the TSA and try to highlight where the issues have come from and ask some pertinent questions.

First, some background information.

TSA, which stands for Treasury Single Account is a policy that intends to consolidate all government revenues in a single account. The idea is, whether you are paying N100 for injection in UBTH (University of Benin Teaching Hospital) or buying crude oil with hundreds of millions of dollars from NNPC, or paying NTA for adverts, all the monies would be domiciled directly into a single account at CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria)

Why is this necessary? This is to avoid situations whereby, administrators of various agencies (UBTH, NNPC and NTA in our examples) from having direct control over the money collected by their agencies. If they need money, they will have to apply to get it from the CBN account. No more dipping hand into the government purse to do “thanks for coming”

Remita, The Chosen One.

Before the TSA implementation, each of the government agencies decided where to open accounts to keep these government revenues and HOW to collect the monies. So the CMD (Chief Medical Director) of UBTH could decide to open 10 bank accounts for UBTH in 5 different banks after a lot of lobbying had been done by branch managers etc, NNPC could have another 20, NTA another 15. This is also where allegations of “fixing money” for interest used to come from.

The implementation of the TSA policy (enshrined in the constitution) was piloted by the Jonathan government. Only a few MDAs (Ministries, Departments and Agencies) like the FIRS were chosen to pilot this system.

For the pilot, SystemsSpecs built a product called Remita that could be used to collect and collate money through multiple channels and was chosen to be the software to be used for this collection.

That is the first issue

Sunk Costs and Competition.

There are 2 ways people usually pay for things in Nigeria either with cash deposits at the bank or cashier points, or using a credit/debit card at a POS or online.

BEFORE the TSA implementation, each MDA set up individual systems for collections. Companies like Interswitch, ETranzact, SocketWorks, etc (which primarily do online/digital collection) already spent LOADS of money trying to get the contract to give them the right to collect money on behalf of these agencies. In some cases, they had to build infrastructure in these MDAs (computers, Internet, Generator etc) to make their work easier.

SocketWorks for instance collects money on behalf of Immigration, Interswitch on behalf of many Hospitals and Schools etc, Same with ETranzact. And we are not including “other costs” of doing business in Nigeria. SystemSpecs also had a few customers.

The Buhari then put a deadline for the TSA implementation.

The CBN rationally decided to use the provider and product that had run the pilot system and that was SystemsSpecs’ Remita.

All of a sudden from sharing the spoils of various MDAs, all the other providers lost all those customers and commissions to “one Remita of a somebody”

All their hustle, down the drain.

That is the second issue.

Commissions and Payments

When a person or an entity collects money for you, it is the norm for the person to be paid part of the proceeds to collect and reconcile that money. For online payments, there are many players who share the ~2% fee that is charged the merchant. For cash payments, it is less standardized but it can be up to say 5% of each transaction.

So of the 1000 naira you pay to UBTH via Interswitch’s WebPay or PayDirect, they take ₦20. By the same calculation, if you pay ₦1 Million, they are entitled to ₦20 000. However, there is usually a cap on the amount of commission on each transaction.

Thought Remita transaction charges are capped even on their website, it seems the deal with the federal government is 1% uncapped.

That is the third issue

Double Charging

BEFORE the full implementation of TSA, monies had already been collected. So let us assume UBTH had ₦1 Billion in a Unity Bank account somewhere, they were given a deadline to transfer that money to the TSA domiciled with CBN.

Note that money in Unity Bank was ALREADY less the commissions paid to collectors like Interswitch.

In transferring that money to CBN, it is alleged that the Banks rather than using NIBSS (Nigerian Interbank Settlement System, a company owned by CBN and the Banks) and paying next to nothing, decided to do it through Remita who would take an uncapped 1% (25 million in this example) for doing absolutely nothing.

That is the fourth issue

In summary, here are the questions arising that are causing problems.

  1. How was SystemsSpecs/Remita chosen to be the sole collector for the Federal Government? Was the Procurement Act followed?
  2. What happened to the existing systems that were put in place especially the ones that had long term arrangements and high setup cost?
  3. How monies are ALREADY in the system (bank accounts) be transferred to the CBN account?
  4. As for the collection, what is the commission taken my SystemsSpecs? Is it (un)capped?

Those are the main issues from what I understand from all parties. Of course aw with politics, there people are mixing up issues to sell their agenda.

That Remita stands for Remi Tinubu Ahmed as much as Jega stands for Jonathan Ebele Goodluck Azikiwe.

My Comments.

  1. For once, it is a good thing that an indigenous company is being used for such a project.
  2. It is understandable if the Federal Government decides to use a single provider/system for the collection of taxes and revenue. However, it could be a big risk to have one single entity doing everything from Customs to Schools to FIRS.
  3. There should be a transparent procurement process for the service provision and more than one provider chosen.

Fun facts

People are usually crying that Interswitch is the bully. It is interesting to see Interswitch crying foul.

Remita actually uses Interswitch’s WebPay for the online collections part of the as a middleman for the online payments aspect. As at yesterday when I checked, it was no longer working.



Thanks Boro for reducing the typos. 

4 comments | Categories: Nigeria, Technology | Tags: , , , , , ,

Why Aren’t Black Tech Founders And Executives, Speakers at Major Tech Conferences?

15 October 2015 by Oo Nwoye

From Left: Aston, Bilikiss, Obi, Juliana, Iyin

From Left: Aston, Bilikiss, Obi, Juliana, Iyin

As with any blog post on race, I have to include a prelude.

This post is neither meant to be combative nor to apportion any blame. It is merely to add to a continuous conversation about diversity in technology. This post is MY OWN observation made on behalf of MYSELF. If any statement here can be interpreted in more than one way, assume the less combative way and / or ask me for clarification.

I actually wanted to write this over a year ago. However, I had been advised about the risk of branding myself as a diversity activist rather than being primarily known as a technology person. And most importantly, to avoid the risk of pissing off the people who control the tech media. But there is only so long you can postpone a question that pops up in your brain daily. As for the risk, we are in the business of risk taking. 😉

Here is the issue

There are almost zero black faces speaking at the major tech startup conferences held in the US and Europe. And in the rare times they do pop up, e dey get k-leg (basically, it isn’t so straightforward).

Let’s check out the numbers of the most recent major/popular tech events (you can google for previous years).

Numbers are objective!

Conference Total Number of Speakers Number of Black Speakers Percentage of Black Speakers Notes
Disrupt SF 2015 83 3 4% Footballer, Snoop Dogg, Music Agent
Recode 2015 28 2 7% Movie Director, Lucious Lyon!
Disrupt London 2014 54 0 0% Thierry Henry is 1 of 20 this year
Le Web 2014 90 0 0% It happens.
Launch Festival 2015 71 7 10% The best I’ve come across. Nice one Jason.
The Next Web Europe 2015 53 0 0% :/

What you will notice is that in the rare times the black (wo)man is on stage, it somehow manages not to be those who are primarily in the tech field but say, in entertainment or sports. When it’s a tech person, s/he is mostly talking about diversity.

Here is the thing. This past year, I have personally emailed a few of these organizers to highlight the anomaly (no, I will not mention them). I have also recommended speakers. The responses (if they come) have not been positive.

Why are Black Speakers Important?

The Pattern Matching Loop.

When you make a decision based on historical data, you are bound to be biased by the data and produce a similar output. That becomes part of the data set and it continues…in a loop.

When tech black founders aren’t seen on stage (aka recognized as leaders in their field), fewer black kids would believe they have a future to excel in that field. The less black kids go into tech, the lower the chance the situation can change. Of course, that bias does not only influence the future black kids, it affects those looking for a co-founder, those looking for whom to fund etc.

I never blame those that pattern match; it is simply human nature.

Let me confess, if I have a few seconds to make a decision, I would not choose someone that looks like Jamie Oliver to make my jollof rice (don’t read the comments :)).

While it can be argued that food, music and some sports are cultural and therefore could have an inherent racial bias, tech isn’t.

5 years ago, I asked for the renowned black founders. While, there has been a lot of progress in that field since then, it has been against the odds.

The about pages and the speaker list of the tech conferences would have more influence on getting more diverse people into the technology field than any other thing I can think of. I know from first hand experience.

Here are some Black Founders and Technologists that should not be overlooked.

Clockwise from Top Left: Sim, Louise, Anthony, Tony

Clockwise from Top Left: Sim, Louise, Anthony, Tony

First, I have to apologize for putting their names here. Because there is this taint that comes from being used as an example. When they get justifiable noticed, it becomes, “oh, they are there to fill in a quota”. But that could not be further from the truth. These folks deserve to be on the largest stages and are needed to correct the flawed data that say none of the best  happen not to be black.

  1. Sim Shagaya (Harvard MBA, first Google Rep for Africa) is building a Nigerian e-commerce giant. Has arguably tamed the German Moving Train known as Rocket Internet’s Jumia with Konga. Raised $78 Million
  2. Iyin Aboyeji (University of Waterloo). At 24 he has finally got his stride in his 3rd tech startup and has co-founded Andela, the mill to churn out the next 100k technologists in Africa. Recently raised $10 million.
  3. Bilikiss Adebiyi (MIT). Using technology to help take away waste while making wealth and helping Lagos go green. Oh! She happens to be Black, Nigerian and Muslim.
  4. Obi Nwosu is co-founder and CTO at a top UK based BitCoin Exchange in the UK called CoinFloor. Doesn’t get more tech than that.

There are many more. However, let me not be accused of being biased towards Nigerians home and abroad. But Charity begins at home :)

Aston Motes was the first employee at Dropbox outside the founders. I do not recollect him being on any stage. He cannot be seen as a quota at any conference. And no, he is not a diversity expert.

Juliana Rotich of the BRCK team should be on every stage possible. BRCK is globally genius and should get much more love than it does.

Tony Gauda a TC Disrupt Finalist build Bitcasa, a Dropbox alternative. He is very qualified to be on any stage talking tech. And so is Anthony Skinner who was the CTO of Moz for many years, especially during their major technology transition. Louise, Kalam and Courtland are some of the black YC alums that are doing stuff as good as those speaking on any stage. So the question of affirmative action does not arise.

BTW, it took me 3 years to know that 2 Nigerian brothers founded a YC coy as far back as 2012. They just never happened to be on any major stage

Like I said above, I actually emailed a tech publication about their speaker lineup after one of their writeups criticizing the tech companies who had released their diversity reports. I didn’t get a response.

I am certain that there isn’t any conspiracy to deny black people in tech stage presence but it is quite easy to take certain things for granted if you are not checking yourself. One example I use to show there is no deliberate plan by white people is one of the quietly best podcasts on tech around, DRT. Only two black people out of the 104 guests so far and the first was number 99. Well, the host is a black british designer 😉

So how do we solve this?

To Affirm or Not to Affirm?

The biggest criticism of affirmative action is that it gives the impression that those who get in are not there based on their competence. Anyone who knows they are worthy on a level playing ground hates it. It is why I apologise to those people I named above. It would seem that they ordinarily would not qualify. That could not be further from the truth based on pedigree and results.

To me, I have started trying to see affirmative action as being more thorough and conscious. Instead of doing a quick Googling to see who to invite to the next conference, spend more time, go more further to find different types of people that QUALIFY to be on your stage. It is that simple!

I also think having a more diverse staff/speaker selectors at the disposal of those organizing tech events would help. People are quick to go for what and whom they know.

Though I fully respect and understand the need for minority focused events, I do not think it alone can help. We belong in the mainstream.

What finally triggered publishing this post (I wrote most of it a month ago) was the latest speaker announced for TC Disrupt London. When I finalized the draft for this post, they had 0 black people and I noted that there was still a chance to rectify it.

Then they chose Henry of Arsenal.

Please rectify.

PS: I hope because of this, I’m not punished covertly or overtly by the conference organizers I appear to criticize. This is to keep an important conversation going with good intention.


Click to Tweet this post.

PPS: Forgive typos. I just don’t see them. Thanks to Emmanuel, Banke and Sheriff for helping reduce them.

12 comments | Categories: Commentary, Startups, Technology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Watch out Swatch! Today, Apple Starts the Clock for You and the ‘Timepiece’

09 March 2015 by Oo Nwoye

I wanted to write this post after Apple announced the Apple Watch but decided to wait until the launch day.

For such an old device, the timepiece has not evolved for quite a number of years in terms of function. As the mobile phone became ubiquitous, the wristwatch being single function device lost is utility and became a full time fashion accessory. This changes today.

Before we talk about how Apple upends the cart, lets try and understand the meaning of time.

Understanding time

The Timeline Interface by Pebble

The Timeline Interface by Pebble

If you think about it carefully, time itself is not really important as its accuracy expires the second we look away from our watch/clock/timepiece. Time only really useful in context.

“How long before my flight?”
“How long before the match starts?”
“How long am I behind schedule for the meeting?”
“How long before I need to wake up?”

Watches should tell us the time and not us looking at the time and doing irrelevant mental math (this generation will ruin the brain)
With the sensors and app that will come with the Apple Watch, our watches will move beyond the time realm and prompt us with

“Dude you’re about to have a heart attack!”
“Dudette, your blood sugar is low. It’s time for your next insulin shot!”
“Mamalete, ya babylette’s temperature is too high. Nope, not Ebola”

Pebble with their timeline interface, and smartstraps have built the first wearable that’ll take input from our bodies, compute without us looking like dofusses.

Time to say goodbye, swatch


A collection of Swatches


Swatch‘s business model has always been built around the uniqueness on the watch face and strap. However, the core of the watch remained below basic.

It is not even Apple that will turn swatch to blackberry, it is Pebble, the cross platform alternative to the Apple watch that gets it right; as regards to building and affordable mainstream wristwatch.

Why spend $150 for a piece of plastic that tell you the time and at best has a stopclock when you can get a device that gives you infinite number of faces and tell you a lot more stuff beyond the time plane.

Here comes the Apple

Apple Watch

Apple Watch Collection

I am not a fan of Apple products, however, if there is one company that can take a consumer electronics mainstream, is is Apple. They tell the cool kids when it is time to move.

Today they are taking the smart watch mainstream and we are going to have a number of casualties.

You might ask, what’s so different? Smart watches are not new!

Apple has attacked the segment not as a gadget like her predecessors in the Watch race but as a fashion item that happens to take the timepiece to the next level. Looking at the above, you would have to admire the three pronged approach

  • The Sports watch (Casio, G- Shock and co)
  • The Casual
  • The Luxury (Made of 18Karat Gold)

As you can see, unlike with Pebble (who have done a great job) and other tech companies, Apple has 10s of millions of iPhone owners who are tired with wristwatches that do not really do much. After a person’s watch stops her from getting a heart attack, and other countless answers and activities and uses like opening doors (I’ll send my key to your watch), cars etc. Would the person put a piece of metal or plastic on their wrist that does nothing more than ‘look good’?

Of course, there is the ‘little issue’ of battery life which will only keep improving . That is the only reason the death of Swatch and co will be slow. Death of course is certain for  a lot of the old brigade.

Hopefully, rather than laugh like Balmer, Swatch would be hovering around founder asking “Guy, how far na?”

As for me, I’ll be getting my first watch in 10 years this year and is is not going to be from the old brigade.


This is my first post this year. I’d like to blog more frequently so I’ll probably increase commentary pieces. Not every time serious post. Sometimes, Apple. As usual, forgive typos and please point them out for me.

2 comments | Categories: Commentary, Technology | Tags: , , ,

How I’ll Run an African Technology Incubator

01 December 2014 by Oo Nwoye


There has been an uptake of tech incubators/accelerators in the African techosystem™. While I applaud the great work that has been done so far, I am yet to see an incubator on this continent run the way I’d love to do it. Rather than just criticise, I’ll use this post to give my own perspectives and suggestions using an example.

I have to point out that this is merely postulation and in real life, things hardly turn out the way you postulate.

Between the Incubator and the Accelerator.

There seems to bit of confusion between what incubators and accelerators are. My own definition is simple: the incubator takes the idea to product/market fit; the accelerator takes it from product/market fit to where it needs to scale.

I am talking about running an incubator.

Guiding Principles.

The incubator will be pro founder and looking to fund commercial viable businesses.

I am not one of those that ridicule MBAs. But there seems to be a difference between business and tech head founded incubators. My guess is the tech heads are better placed to empathize with a fellow tech head. While pure business heads are guided solely by numbers.

In addition, I see a lot of incubators that view their investor position as being benevolent. They see it like they are doing the entrepreneur a favour. I see it as a partnership at worst and at best, the founders are doing me a favour helping me make money.

In reality, we both need ourselves to make money while solving problems.

The set up.

I like the Y Combinator setup. If I were running an incubator, I’d have a core partnership structure. The partners made up of “specialist generalists” e.g operations, would all have a stake in the incubator and must have contributed to the fund.

I am not a fan of incubators/accelerators that stockpile “mentors”. It ends up confusing people. There are many ways to cook soup. What ends up happening is each mentor in a bid to justify their existence insist their way is the best. Of what use is a mentor that tells you “what that other guy said is good enough”

The partnership will have one primary person that covers an area of expertise. e.g Product, Finance, Technology, Design Legal and Operations. The partnership will not be bigger than 6 people. Of course industry experts will be welcome to play an ad hoc mentoring role but it will be after the startups have been selected.

More on that in my example to come.

Idea Selection

We’ll focus on ideas that are relevant to the continent but applicable globally, generate revenue from the very first user and can scale to millions of dollars in revenue with a team of 20 or less and at worst can survive without follow-on funding even if it does not succeed in scaling.

Founders will be able to apply with their ideas or ours.

Founder Selection

Since we will be focused on incubating, we will be looking for teams that are “complete”. The core tech must be internal and part of the team. Same as the core operations (more on that in my example). They must have proven at some point in their past that they have the resilience and focus to execute a project for a long period of time.

We will also recruit our founders. The best employees are sought out and not waited on to apply for the job. I believe same applies to founders. I see most incubators putting out application forms and waiting for the applications to roll in.

Like the CEO of a startup, I as the promoter of the incubator will use applications but will also spend a lot of time trying to recruit founders. Many of the best people are already doing something else with their time. That does not in anyway mean that those that apply are not good more like there a lot of great people that will not apply.

We’ll look to cap it at 5 teams per set and 2 sets per year.

The Incubation Period

There will be a residential place available for all founders. This may not be a big deal in other climes but here in Lagos, having a place where you have 24 hours light is luxury.

Providing only an office that has the resources is not enough when most of your founders will be spending 4 hours daily commuting and most likely will be operating at 50% capacity during “office hours”.

For the 3-4 months incubation period, every other distraction will be taken care of. At least it will be an offer left for you to take or not depending on circumstance.

Scope and Funding

Once of my biggest criticisms of African incubators is that they do not begin with the end in mind. They have this idea of holding on to the startup from the beginning to IPO. I view the startup funding funnel more like an assembly line. Before starting, it has to be clear who you want to hand over to and pitch those people before you start. After hand off, you move to the next batch.

Y Combinator’s accelerator program ends with them handing over to Venture Capitalists and Seed investors on demo day. Were I to do an incubator, my plan will be to hand over to the accelerators and that means discussing with the likes of YC, TechStars and co before I start to know the type of metrics and growth that will get them interested.

Sometimes, the startup might scale beyond your next planed step. In that case you work and hand them to the VCs. But at worst they have great accelerators to be handed over to.

For the above to work, there has to be a clearly defined time scope. If startups think they can stay forever they will work like they have a cushion. Like strict and loving parents, they have to know the nest is available for just 4 months. That’s it. It would help them have an urgent mindset. It does not mean after 4 months you kick them out in the rain if they are stuck.

Equity and Financing.

Off my head I am looking to spend $25-35k per startup for 10% “founder shares”. $15-20k cash and $10-15k for facilities/operational expenses depending on team size. I think it is fair because we’ll be acting as co founders taking practically the same risks as founders.

For the funding of such a scheme, we’d will be looking to raise about $2 million that will last over 4 classes (5 startusp per class) and 2 years. A fraction of the money (say $100k) would come from the partners, much more(say $400k) from the promoter i.e me and the rest, from strategic Limited Partners. e.g Venture Capital firms and accelerators interested in deal flow and say telco companies interested in not being left behind.

Raising money from external parties is the hardest part. But then, that’s why we have the finance person in the startup :). Also see epilogue.

A Quick Example.


Funding a startup that wants to build an on-demand platform for building artisans (painters, plumbers, etc). Customers request jobs and the startup gets a trained artisan to do the job and takes a part of the revenue.

Founder Selection

The team would need to have someone that can build the platform but more importantly, a person that has practical industry experience. Say whose parent or self is/was an artisan, or has experience in the industry e.g has worked in a building maintenance company.

If we do not see such a person applying we’ll seek them out. Maybe someone doing such a business on an analogue scale or sweet talk that person out of their building maintenance job where they do all the work but the owner takes all the upside.

I am not saying a founder without such experience cannot learn on the job. I just believe the risks of failure are much higher without practical experience.


Our work as an incubator is to ensure that at the end of 4 months, there is traction which we’ll define in revenue terms before the class starts.

In the first few days, we will work with the founders to define the scope. e.g focus on painters and painting jobs in Lagos.

As a product person in conjunction with our tech partner (say Ope Obembe), in two weeks, we can work hands on with the technical guy to get the version one of the platform ready. Our operation partner say Mark Essien (top lad) will work with the operational co founder to work on recruiting 5 painters that will execute the first jobs and maybe a strategy for scaling recruitment and training.

Everyone will work hand in hand to get the first set of jobs.

At the end of the incubation period, we would expect that 30-40 painting jobs must have been done with say 8 new jobs a week coming through and growing weekly. Growth is extremely important.

That will be the core focus. That is what we will hand over to be accelerated. If per chance it is moving much faster, then we’ll seek higher level of funding or if sustainable, no funding at all.

It all depends on circumstance.


After selection of such a startup, we’ll seek mentors that have experience in the building maintenance space. Say an executive in Berger Paints or someone that has executed on something similar in a different country like Adaora, the co founder of HomeJoy (no, she’s not Igbo) . Such people can be a source of finance or important strategic partnerships later on

This differs from the popular model of pooling mentors for the numbers before knowing if their skills will be relevant to the starups selected. Although someone that has scaled and exited a web hosting company is cool to have around, that experience is most likely irrelevant in the case of building an artisan on demand company.


The above captures the high level of my general idea. While still very theoretical and easier to write than execute, it is the way I’d try to do it if I were doing it.


My retirement plan was always to fund and run an incubator after my first exit. It is so much easier for two reasons, I would have the money to kick-start the process and secondly, I would have the authority and trust when speaking and convincing founders, potential investors, partners and most importantly myself.

But since that is taking much longer, I’ll brain dump my theory until it’s time :)

PS: Do check out Callbase, one of the products of the startup where I’m co founder.

Thanks to Ope, Banke and Mark for feedback.

6 comments | Categories: Startups, Technology | Tags: , , , ,

← Older posts