Aso Villa Demo Day. Hm…

Aso Villa Demo DayThese days, If one writes, they’ll say this trouble maker don start again. So I kept quiet on Aso Villa Demo Day (a day to showcase to the President the best of Nigerian technology).

However, this morning, the thought came to me, “Wait o… we have been clamoring for Bubu to take tech seriously, therefore this Aso Villa Demo Day is our one chance to  ‘convince him’ that tech is the future and that we here in Nigeria have the capacity to deliver on the promise.”

To the best of my knowledge, non comrades of our techosystem (I know, sounds so entitled and arrogant) have the mandate to decide our representatives. How we are viewed by the highest level of government depends on them. They are our representatives to the President. 

So looking through the list, I could see less than a handful of startups like GRIT Systems and RedBank folks tackling huge and important problems.  I could also see a number of “normal startups” e.g a different permutation of ecommerce startups you’d find in Lagos.

Looking further however, I see stuff like Egusi Soupe. And many other ”ideas” most likely thought off the cuff. I doubt much more than the pitching time was allotted to these ideas. Their only entries in Google search is from the press releases sent to various media outlets.

So how have these representatives of  Nigeria’s Tech possibilities been chosen? And by who? And with what criteria?

I would think if we’re pitching tech to the highest level of the country, we should be going for greatest impact. We should play our very best cards. Which I’d interpret as startups with the most feasible chance of directly impacting a minimum of 1 million people or creating/saving a minimum of a billion dollars. 

A second thing I’d champion if we in the techosystem had this opportunity would be to go out and recruit beyond the people that applied. For instance, I should expect a Tryctor, WeCyclers, something on the future of education, financial Inclusion etc to be among this list.

Finally, I would there should be a clear and realizable outcome from this rare August (september?) meeting with the President. Every startup should have their one ask which we would expect the President to mandate/champion instantly. This should instantly eliminate every “idea only”  entries which belong to hackathons and business plan competitions.

But what do I know?

I’ll conclude by referencing a favorite admonition of my man Bubu. 

“You Nigerian Technology Press should do more investigative journalism. Ask questions. Prod around. Basically, do your jobs. You’re the fourth estate”.

PS: I don’t intend to be harsh or overtly critical which is why I have my recommendations within the post. Hard questions must always be raised especially when it comes to government. No vex.

Why Andela’s Nigeria Story is Important

Today, the world got to know that Mark Zuckerberg led the round to invest in Andela’s Series B.  It was carried by Forbes, WSJ, INC, CNET and many others. Like Quartz

It is a massive story that would be carried around the world because, aside from the fact that it is Zuckerberg, it is the very first investment of the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative $40 billion behemoth.

It would have been all good, however the narrative of Andela especially with regard to Nigeria’s role seemed one kain. Besides the fact that in many publications, there was (prior to my twitter rants) NO mention of the critical role the Nigerian cofounder (Iyinoluwa) played, in birthing Andela. Lagos, where Andela was founded was reduced to one of two African campuses of a New York startup.

The WSJ reports:

Thursday, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative LLC plans to announce an investment in Andela Inc., a New York-based startup that trains software developers in Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya. 

My issue isn’t with the elevation of New York’s role in creating Andela it has to do with the diminishing of Lagos, Nigeria.

A Quick Recap

The TechCabal post announcing the Fora Pivot which became known as Andela

What is not known is that Andela was launched via a blogpost in 2014 as a Fora (Iyin’s previous startup cofounded with his schoolmate mate Ian) pivot. The idea was arguably seeded on TechCabal some days earlier (see comment section) when Iyinoluwa (aka E) grandiosely declared a world class developer could be trained in months.

Fora had been having challenges getting off the ground as an accredited long distance institution targeting Africans. With the encouragement and support of his American friend Jeremy and his first (Fora) backer South African Pule, decided to pivot to a business model.

To prove there was demand, E put out that post without anything on ground. The blog post was the MVP, Fora’s CTO and now Andela’s Director of Training, Nadayar executed on training. Once demand was proven on the supply side of the business (trainable developers), it was time to form Andela as a new entity.

Andela was made possible because of the Voltron formed BETWEEN Nigeria and USA. Founded in Nigeria, financed in New York. A great combination.

A profile from Ventures Africa last year highlights the important aspects of the founding of Andela

The seed for Andela came from one of the company’s other co-founders, Iyin “E” Aboyeji, a 23-year-old Nigerian and law graduate from the University of Waterloo two hours west of Toronto, Canada. E, as he is known by most people, is also a serial entrepreneur with two previous start-ups, Bookneto and, an online pan-African platform that distributes tertiary and professional educational material


Andela launched on 1 September 2014, with six students selected from a developer boot camp, in the office building it currently occupies on Herbert Macaulay Road not far from the famed Co-Creation Hub, an incubator at the centre of Nigeria’s tech revolution.


Why This History Matters

Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter

It is hard being Nigerian especially when it concerns the internet. We are pattern matched in a disrespectful way almost all the time and there is a lot of tangible cost to Nigerian Internet Entrepreneurs.

So success stories MATTER SO MUCH when we are trying to change the narrative.  What is the best way to prove to an investor that you can start a multi-million startup from Nigeria? Show the investor a multi-million dollar startup that was started from Nigeria.

How can you easily convince a Nigerian that with the right partnerships, they can co found a multi million dollar startup from Nigeria? Show them a Nigerian that has done so.

How can you tell a 23 year old he is not too young to be ambitious? Show him a 23 year old that launched a startup with a blog post.

Can an African Angel investor discover the next Andela? Yup! Cos Pule did!

Bosun of CcHub saw (against naysayers like myself) that the Yaba Tech Cluster of Nigeria would BIRTH great things. It helped birth Andela. Now that the validation of Andela as a success is going global, Lagos has been reduced to one of the campuses of New York based startup. (Nairobi is even mentioned first in some reports!) 

Pictures also Matter!

In the Forbes article, the picture used positions the familiar benevolent white folks with the grateful African recipient of a good gesture. Or in other cases the students that are being trained. It should have been the right time to include the picture of the NIGERIAN co-founder E, who helped make this happen. They say a picture says a thousand words. That picture would inspire millions the world over by SHOWING not telling, we can do it right here from Nigeria.

Most of all, the Loyola classmates and Warri neighbours of E deserve some braggin’ rights! “See our boy doing great things!”

Andela is filling an extremely important piece of the African techosystem – building the talent of tomorrow so I wish them nothing but exponential success. But as they go on to do greater things, they should not forget where they came from.

The Andela Team: Ian, Christina, E, Jeremy

In conclusion, it is expected of the press to tell the accurate stories. When they fail in that regard, it is our responsibility to correct it immediately before Mongo Park goes to discover River Niger again :)

PS: It is important to clarify that in no way am I suggesting that there is sinister plot to wipe away the Nigerian roots of Andela. I believe historical oversights happen without realising the importance of some of its aspects.

Thanks Banke and Sam for your feedback for this post!

Creating a Qualitative Assessment Sheet for Governance in Nigeria

First of all, there is a backstory to why this post exists. Actually three.

  1. In a political group I belong to, I stated that Oshiomohle has been a very poor governor of Edo State. I was digitally slammed by a person who has worked with him in the capacity of an adviser. He came to Oshio’s defence by stating the random road and building projects Adams executed. I retorted by saying road contracts can be automated and are not necessarily evidence of good governance.  
  2. On Twitter, I stated with an air of authority and finality that “when it comes to government administration, El Rufai has no peer in Nigeria. The “gatherbrushing” I received there was quite vehement. They insisted El Rufai is not above average. A few dozen tweets later, there was no agreement forthcoming.
  3. It has been one year since the Federal Government and most State Governments began their tenures. There will be a lot of debate about their achievements. 

A question I asked myself and sought an answer to: is there a way to objectively assess the quality of governance especially as it is progressing? Can we objectively view the level of governance by governments?

This post is my personal attempt to articulate how I intend to assess governance. In addition, I hope to create a framework whereby any two governments can be compared and assessed. 

This post is also serves as a prelude to my response to the “digital gatherbrushers” I spoke of in 1 & 2 above. 

Influenced by the popular Business Model Canvas, I created something I’m calling the Governance Assessment Sheet.

Introducing my Qualitative Governance Assessment Sheet for Nigeria

A Governance Assessment Sheet

First of all I have to point out that this a Version 1 of A PERSONAL idea. It is NOT fact, it is not comprehensive and most of all, it needs tons of improvement.

Secondly, this is meant to be a qualitative assessment. I.e., I want a way to lay out information, and allow for analysis. To each their own interpretation of the information.

Finally, no two states are different. No two circumstances the same.

How the Assessment Sheet Works

The first column is the sector column. This is subdivided across all the sectors of the territory. From Security to Education, to Finance, Agriculture, etc.  All these together make the state function just like the parts of the body.

The next three columns track the projects as they are implemented across all the sectors.  Both physical (construction, supplies) and  strategic (policy, laws) projects will be taken into the account.

The fifth column, goals, subdivided across sectors indicate the high level aims to be achieved in each of the sectors.

The sixth column, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are the objective indicators required to note the level at which the projects have met the goals for each sector or not.

The seventh and last column cuts across all sectors. It is the overall vision of the person governing the political entity. It a summation of all the goals of each sector if they all go according to plan.

The bottom row cuts across all columns. This are key standardized economic indicators that show the health of the state. e.g GDP, Unemployment, Life Expectancy rate etc. 

Filling the Assessment Sheet

In an ideal scenario, this is aimed to be a self assessment sheet for each governor at the beginning of his/her term. 

The first parts to be filled are the factual aspects. e.g GDP, State Population, Life Expectancy. These will adjust depending on the impact of governance. 

The most important input in that sheet should be the overall vision of the state and should look about 10 years ahead. An example of a state’s vision can be El Rufai’s “to be the Manchester of Nigeria/West Africa.(i.e., the center of manufacturing in Nigeria/West Africa.)

Next is the listing of the key sectors that will be important in achieving the overall vision. Katsina might not take tourism s important as Cross River.

After listing the sectors, the goals to be achieved in each sector should be next. A goal is a specific objective intended to be achieved. For example, under the Health sector, “reduce infant mortality by xx%” might be a goal.

The KPI is there to objectively know if you are achieving your set goal. If present mortality is 50/1000 children dying before age 5. You now have a number to measure against. 

After filling up the overall vision of a state and goals you want to achieve, the projects come next. So EVERY project should have a rationale. Why are you building that road? How will it allow you achieve the goals and the vision?

The preceding paragraph is why I am hardly impressed with governors that “donate” books, tar random roads or refurbish random buildings. I am hard press to understand how it fits in any grand picture or if there is any grand picture.

All intended projects FOR EACH sector are put into the “to do column” and moved to “doing” and “done” accordingly. 

How the Assessment Sheet is to be read Read

This assessment sheet should be updated monthly or quarterly.

Like I said, the intention of the assessment sheet is for self assessment and to give a consistent basis for comparison. The scoring is also qualitative. 

So for instance if you have no idea of your favorite governor’s vision, there is a problem. If all the projects are perpetually on “to do,” there is a problem. If a governor’s education project cuts illiteracy by 50% and another’s project hopes “donating 1000 books will help the illiteracy of one million kids under him, it would be clear for all to see.

For instance, it is the view of many people including myself that Fashola did nothing in his second term. With this assessment sheet, it would have shown the BRT, LASTMA, IPP projects were all done in his first term and the to do > doing > done would be practically idle for his second term.

It may be able to show that while Aregbesola tarred many roads in his state, he may have overlooked various sectors in in the state. 

Next Steps

My favorite governor BY FAR is Nasir El Rufai. I intend to use this template to assess his governance of Kaduna in the past one year.  My hope is that people can use the same sheet to compare his performance with that of their favorite governor.

The idea is that the layout of the facts could then be a better ways of basing the arguments or discourse.  If a person wins “Governor of the Year” it can be asked that this could be used to SHOW why.

More importantly, I hope to get feedback and improve this sheet. I have been asked if I can make it quantitative. Any ideas on that would be helpful.

Here is a link to the sheet. You can download and modify as you wish.



Thanks Banke for your feedback before publishing

Here’s Why Uber Debits Nigerian Accounts Up To Twice the Quoted Fare.

Yesterday,  my account was debited twice the quoted Uber fare amount of  ₦ 1150. I was excitedly spoiling for a fight then sadly Uber refunded my account the complete trip fare.

This over debiting is not a new phenomenon.

From my interaction with the very polite C Jennie, the internal reason being given (and perhaps understood) for this discrepancy is “International Bank Charges” so I decided to reply and give what I know to be the main issue.

Here’s an excerpt from the Uber support email (I will not include my previous exchanges but I’ll say this “Oo, you could do with reducing the benin boy in you”)

Hi Oo,

Sorry for the confusion here. Happy to explain.

Given Uber’s international structure – our merchant account, Uber BV, is based in the Netherlands, and therefore certain banks will add an international transaction fee when their cardholder makes a purchase from Uber BV. Uber has no control over whether your bank chooses to add such a fee. While this isn’t an optimal experience, you may be able to lower or avoid these fees by using a different credit card.

I have gone ahead applied NGN 2300 credit to your Uber account which will automatically apply to your next ride.

Please know that we have no control over these additional charges and only charge what you see in your Uber receipt.

If you check your trip receipt, you’ll notice we have a disclaimer at the bottom that reads: “Fare does not include fees that may be charged by your bank. Please contact your bank directly for inquiries.” Our intent is to be as transparent as possible and make it easy for you to pay for your Uber requests.

Hope this clarifies things. Let me know if there’s anything else.

Being one never to let a chance for me to explain something pass, here is my response which explains the issue and why the overcharging it is Uber’s fault  responsibility.

Thanks for your response and the refund.

I work in tech and understand what’s happening, so I may be in a better position to explain to you and will cos you were kind enough to sort this out 🙂
It’s not bank fees but an exchange rate issue. 
In Nigeria today, there are 2 exchange rates for the Dollar. The official one is $1 = ₦ 200 the black market is $1 = ₦400
When a Nigerian buys a domain name for $10, his bank deducts ₦4000 because the banks operate with the black market rate (getting dollars at the official rate is hard). The customer does not complain though. Why? because it was $10 that was charged and knows there are 2 prices for $10. ₦2000 if you buy it officially and ₦4000 from the black market
Here is where and WHY Uber is at fault.
When Uber wants to charge you ₦2000, Uber displays ₦2000. That is all the customer sees and knows.  However at Uber’s backend, Uber asks that $10 be charged (because Uber ASSUMES it is the dollar equivalent). So both Uber BV and the Bank see $10. And what does the Nigerian bank do, they charge at the black market rate thereby removing ₦4000 from the customer’s account.
How can Uber (and other Nigeria based merchants using foreign processors) solve this? 
The only way to solve this is to send the processor the charge Nigerian denominated bank cards in  Naira and not in Dollars. For this, Uber will need to open a Merchant account denominated in Naira. I think it is only in Nigeria you can get such. 
Payment processors you could yous are Paystack, Interswitch, Paga (you guys have an arrangement).
This issue affects anyone using a foreign processor  in Nigeria.  Harsh but true is the fact that it is not the customer’s business  what processor you are using. You cannot say something costs x amount and 2x will get deducted. It’s that simple.
As for Uber, the only way to escape this extra deduction is to use cash. Before you place your Uber order, click the Card symbol and change it to cash.  If you are yet to download your Uber, you can do so here and get $15 credit. I’m sure if it’s a naira fare, it would be exchanged at ₦200.
Criminal Banks!
PS: This of course this opens another topic about global payments in a globally connected commercial world.  I’m still a long way from understanding how the block chain (awon Stellar, Bitcoin etc) would impact this.