Seyi Taylor: 5 reasons you cannot build Instagram in Nigeria

by Seyi Taylor

Instagram has been in the news in the past two weeks.  First, they launched their long-awaited Android app, reaching a whopping 1 million downloads in the first day, adding to their tally of 30 million users and becoming the largest mobile photo-sharing application in the world.

Then, they got acquired by Facebook for $1 billion (about 1/8th of the notorious fuel subsidy) in a shares/cash deal making the team of 13 and their venture backers very rich, very quickly. So, I know; the question on the lips of many in Nigeria’s vibrat tech scene has been, “Can we build an Instagram in Nigeria?”  My answer is a resounding NO, and here are my five reasons:

1. Power Holding Corporation of Nigeria (or whatever they call themselves these days)
The number one reason why you cannot build Instagram in Nigeria is the lack  of power.  What does that have to do with anything you ask?  Well, in Nigeria, there are many scenarios – you either suffer periods of no productivity due to lack of electricity, you suffer reduced productivity because your small generator cannot “carry” your air conditioner, or you spend a lot of money on poor productivity with a noisy and expensive generator that can.  Either way, you use all the time and energy that should have been spent building the perfect photosharing app dealing with power problems.

2. The in-built inefficiency of the Nigerian system
Everything in Nigeria takes twice as long to do.  Want to register a company? Come back next month.  Get an ATM card?  Stay tuned for next week’s episode of “the PIN is not ready”.  Want to ‘quickly’ get to Victoria Island and come back?  Try astral projection.

One of the first things that people comment on when they leave Nigeria is how their productivity sky-rockets.  Why?  Perhaps because everyone else seems to know the value of time.  Or perhaps everyone is not trying doubly hard to create a relatively normal existence—taking 10 minutes off work to switch on and off their generators, trying that call a 7th time because the first 6 calls were dropped or simply wondering how long it takes your staff to find a recharge card on Sunday!  Nigeria is inherently inefficient and I’m not quite sure how you’ll build an engineering-intensive application in Nigeria.

3. No ISP in Nigeria
You know the people saying that 29 is too late to be a billionaire?  It’s their fault you’re 33 and still joining thousands together.  How do you build a world-beating web application when you’re struggling with a poor internet connection all day?  Never mind that these connections are among the most expensive in the world.  If you’re struggling to attach a picture to your mail, do you honestly think you’re going to be able to upload your app to the cloud today?

4. Where are the developers?
It’s not that we don’t have any developers, it’s just that we don’t have Instagram-level developers.  As simple as Instagram looks, the amount of technical work that has gone into delivering a simple, seamless photo-sharing experience is insane.  Ask any tech entrepreneur in Nigeria and they’ll tell you that to establish a team of local developers that can deliver that level of technical detail is near impossible.

5. NYSC
Kevin Systrom, the acquiree, isn’t 30 yet.  Mark Zuckerberg, the acquirer, is 24.  In Nigeria, these men would currently be fighting mosquitoes in a village in the name of “national service”.  But what greater service than the capital gains taxes that would be paid to the US government from this transaction?

My position on NYSC should be well-known: it should be voluntary.  I have nothing but respect for people who choose to leave lives of privilege to attend to the less-fortunate, but I have a big problem with it being compulsory.  The current system, however, means that potential company builders would have to take a compulsory 1-year break for reasons that are spurious at best.

And there you have it: 5 reasons you cannot build Instagram in Nigeria.  Depressed yet?

 

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Comments (50)

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  2. Very valid points, i must agree. But Naija is developing sha.

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  4. Hello All,

    I have greatly enjoyed going through all the comments in this thread however I have a few comments I would like to add.

    1: I use to have the same view Seyi Taylor has on this issue until the day I visited Dubai (it has since being my inspiration holiday destination), my visit there has since changed my views about attitude and its impact on developments.

    When I first landed there I had tears in my eyes not because of the desert sand but because of what they were able to achieve in the desert. which led me to pen the following in my electronic diary.

    'Take a Nigerian to the desert and he will ask you why you brought him to a barren place to surfer and he will complain about lack of opportunities in the desert and he would allow all his fears to paralyze him from doing any thing. But take an Arab man to the same desert and he sees opportunities, he sees the first world's first desert Ice Skating platform running at below Zero degres, he sees hotels, he sees the world biggest shopping mall, he sees the world tallest building etc. His ability to see what is possible despite all the challenges around him as enabled him to over come all obstacles that surround him, which invariably as translated to one of the world well known modern city Dubai which has all this world firsts."

    I know you may be asking what all this has to do with web app development, it has everything. I believe that you can archive what ever you set your mind to achieve barring all obstacles. As developers we share a common trait with GOD, we are creators like GOD. Let us use our abilities to imagine and constructively create and be change agents in Nigeria. Our current leaders have sown, unfortunately, seeds that our generation is currently reaping etc. let us not follow them to do the same for our children.

    I am also a fan of Science Fiction Novels and Films and I have noticed that they served as positive channels towards some of the technology we all enjoy today, such as the mobile phone (StarTrek Communicator) etc.

    2: As Software Developers (SD) in Nigeria I think our problems are not the issues laid down by Seyi Taylor, but they are more human in nature.. We have envy and communal support issues. I have noticed that some developers are selfish in nature… we do not share ideas and neither do we support each other to solve problems without asking for what is in it for me. When I visit western SD forums I see free flow of information and it is this free flow of info that makes it possible to build world class apps, I do not see much of this happening here in Nigeria, why?

    I have also observed new trends regarding successful web apps, do you realize that there is now a growing number of successful app developers who are making tremendous amount of money that are from developing countries such as croatia, serbia, and from countries that are so obscure that I have to do a research to find out more about them. Part of the first step in building an instagram like app in nIgeria is to first learn to trust and support one another.

    3: From the purchase point of view Intstagram's purchase is an anomaly purchases such as that are one in million just like playing the National Lottery. Just as Apple as a company is an anomaly tell me which other company in the world sells their shares at about $565 (that is a whopping N93,000 par share) So instead if focusing on these rare opportunities why not focus on building the best app and draw the largest followers or users and make some money in the process. I am sure that if face book as been all about money from day 1, they would not have gained as much mileage as they have today, but rather they were all about improving user's experience. My advice is why not build usable apps that people need and build on it over the next couple of years perhaps some organization might notice you and purchase your app.

    4: Business, the other challenge is a lot of developers lack business experience to run and negotiate good deals for their apps. Like some one mentioned earlier(in this tread) you can not be a jack of all trades. But you still need to learn how it is done. You can also set up a board of advisers to assit you in making important decisions.

    I think we should have an annual forum were we meet to discuss all this issues invite both local and foreign speakers etc. Let us see the possibilities let us be the creators we are ment to be. So what do you think?

  5. "t was not a one man show. Where we have someone who wants to code – to develop applications, but also wants to be the investor, be the marketer, be the Founder…..how do you expect anything good to come out of that?"

    "There are thousands of solutions to everyday problems in Nigeria, we can develop"

    Good points me, @seyi we do have go devs. here in nigeria, what I believe is lacking is the foresight to spot and solve local problems with global relevance, we can't build instagram here, no, we are yet to solve more pressing issues. that said I think a local instagram for a specific purpose like photo journalism and curation would be a great idea.

    yes you are right on NYSC, should e re-purposed or totally scraped

  6. I'm sorry, but I disagree on these points. I would instead have stated that the majority of the population don't use smart phones. Hence, if u built such an application, it will not sell seriously in Nigeria and hence may not go beyond our borders easily. Then if the app service is known to be built by a Nigerian, there will be sceptics.

  7. As soon as I read this article I had to bookmark it because I knew the reactions would be interesting to read. I was right.

    From the little I know of Seyi Taylor, not sure if I finally followed you on twitter, but you"re too enlightened to use the word "cannot" in this context. I think you tried to use reverse psychology….I may be wrong but that"s my honest opinion. If I was right- Whether it worked we"ll see in due time. I'm not "sucking up" to you. You don't know me and I wouldn't recognise you if you walked down my street(one of the beauties of the internet). That said….

    Of all the things listed I would agree that collaboration or the lack of it is the reason why we have not done more that we have so far. The T.V series "America: The Story Of The US" had an episode on Thomas Edison and his work on the light bulb. Apart from the number of times he tried to invent it (I forget now how many exactly) but I was shocked to learn that millions of dollars(if not more) were spent to back that invention…..or spent in the hope that it would be a success; it was not a one man show. Where we have someone who wants to code – to develop applications, but also wants to be the investor, be the marketer, be the Founder…..how do you expect anything good to come out of that? Edison didn't have to worry about money and so all he did was focus on what was important – inventing. What we need is that collaborative spirit so everyone can plugin and sink themselves where what they know would be best used. Let marketers market, let coders code and let business developers develop!

    Another issue is most people start out with money at the core. So I read that Instagram was bought for $1Bil USD. I run to my system crack open my IDE and think "Ok, what billion dollar app can I develop next?" Have we forgotten that Instagram wasn't his first project? Nor Facebook Mark"s? Read Malcolm Gladwell"s "Outliers", overnight success is just an illusion. Let"s pay our dues and in due time success would come – like it did for them. We should instead think of how we can use what we already know – here and now- Java, C#, Python to help make life easier. There are thousands of solutions to everyday problems in Nigeria, we can develop, no matter how seemingly "non complex" that don't require much capital.

    In addition, and to round up my long "comment" : I"ve had to turn down one or two projects recently because I didn't feel I had the necessary skill. That"s when it dawned on me that "a lack of opportunity" as an excuse is fast growing old in this Country – especially for us developers. On a final note coders please, look for solutions to help Mr XYZ make life better, write code, develop applications and let the money chase you.

    P.S I am a developer myself, and working on just that "developing…" . Watch out, you"ll be hearing about me pretty soon.

  8. I have to disagree with my man Seyi.

    You do not need to build Instagram level success to be successful. How many startups in Silicon Valley have done $1bn? Even My Space and FourSquare have not reached that level.

    Starting up in Nigeria is beyond hard. I am typing this using my gen. Is it impossible to have global level success from Nigeria? No! We have to change our mindset. No excuses!

    Our musicians are showing us that is possible. If you were told that you could raise $8m from Nigeria, you would say "e no fit happen for Nigeria".

    So can we stop spending all the time complaining (without trying to make it work) and get shit done.

    BTW, in my opinion, our number one problem is lack of collaboration. So while we could have used collective intelligence and experience to surmount the odds, we are all having to go it alone. And NEPA has nothing to do with it.

    Let me give you a few examples: Some people have raised money, how many of them will tell fellow founders how they did it? Or are ready to do intros? How many people are ready to help without wanting to take half of your business?

    One the few people with the right mindset can build momentum in this our ecosystem, things will get metter. Until then, we just have to continue toiling.

    PS: The crappy power situation is a very good opportunity. Anyone that can supply an affordable (100k) renewable power kit that can power 2 laptops and a fan will make a killing. So that is how entrepreneurs should be thinking and not complaining at every opportunity.

    It is hard. But it has to be , if not everyone would have been Dangote or Zuckerberg.

    PPS: Here is a relevant post to my comment http://oonwoye.com/2011/05/23/6-lessons-nigerians

  9. Well, I did calm down to read through your post. I suspect your tone is a bit exaggerated for dramatic effect but it was quite a pessimistic view on the challenges we face in Nigeria; or wasn't it?

    I agree with you that Instagram is practically impossible to build with the prevailing conditions in Nigeria, but I think the hurdles to be crossed are more cultural than infrastructural. Simply put, we do not have a strong tech culture yet. it is fast developing, but not there yet.

    And besides, the challenges you mentioned are transient; we'll solve them soon. But maybe that's just the optimist in me speaking.

    PS: Check out some of my digital marketing oriented ramblings on http://chaostheorycreative.com/RandomCollisions/

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  11. The author's conclusions are real, may be not limited to these 5. If you have a cause to build something from ground up you will almost totally agree.

    We are simply dogged people cos we are all incompetent builders, given the tough terrain, and we are still pushing…extremely hopeful Nigerians.

    I think with a lab in Atlanta and Hq in Lagos, I'll do better than this. I respect the instagram colleagues they've done really great. Hopefully after December 5, Nigerians will be as proud of a far reaching idea FROM ONE OF THEIR OWN built under this 'hell of a condition'.

  12. And yes, code wins arguments. Every time.

  13. I must confess, this is a well-thought post and I agree with it, but I'm strongly against the "cannot" word. However, I think you chose it as your post title for god reason. #SMILING 🙂

    Please note that I also have the same opinion that our environment wont let us excel at the development and usage of certain apps. Most made-in-Nigeria, for Nigerians, apps won't flourish. Most developers think they can just copy what works in western countries and paste here, error! I see some mobile and web apps that makes the news, and I laugh, mostly when the developers are so optimistic that it will fly. Out terrain is really harsh but will improve when we have an efficient economy.

    On the "cannot" word – to those who think it's impossible, Remember when investors and some experts where saying, and, in fact, giving reasons why GSM won't work in Nigeria? Remember when some Americans thought it was Mission-Impossible to put a man in the moon? Thank God their president motivated his people and took actions that made that mission possible.

    As a developer, getting the required skills and collaboration needed to develop certain apps hasn't been a gold-mine. With time we will get better at collaboration and skill-set.

    It's good you have thrown light on this issue. Let's hope the government do something about this.

  14. @Ejiro_ I dont know if you have heard of the term in the Hacker mantra "Code wins arguments" made popular by Facebook.

    If anyone is offended by Seyi's post, kindly build something. To make it more interesting I will put out a challenge. Let someone build a clone of Instagram from Nigeria within the next 3 months and we will give the person or team space in our Accra Start-up Accelerator – Afrinnova.com – for 3 months and sponsor him/her on a trip to Silicon Valley for the next PandoMonthly meetup organized by PandoDaily.

    Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am the last person to tell anyone not to try anything. As a founder of a Startup Accelerator I believe in encouraging hopes and dreams but I dont encourage stupidity or reinventing the wheel. There are far easier ways to knock down an obstacle than banging one's head on it hoping it will give.

    The point I was trying to make is that individuals should learn to work together to overcome constraints in creative manner rather than bang their heads against the wall and hope it caves in. It may be far easier to get together and push down that wall the way Co-Creation Hub is trying to do.

    If we are really smart we can share rent and generator even if we cant share ideas but sadly most of us still carry the mentality that led to the civil war. Maybe it is our parent's fault, they should have taught us how to share as babies.

    We started a project called Open-garage in Accra where we open up the Garage in our office as co-working space and hope the community we build will encourage more other individuals and establishments to lend their garages to the effort. Steve Jobs and the greats started from Garages and maybe one from Africa will come from such.

    We use opensource software in Nigeria but we have not learned from the open-source movement. It is about the community, if we dont work together we die alone.

    Code wins arguments and the challenge is open to all

    1. "If anyone is offended by Seyi’s post, kindly build something. To make it more interesting I will put out a challenge. Let someone build a clone of Instagram from Nigeria within the next 3 months and we will give the person or team space in our Accra Start-up Accelerator – Afrinnova.com – for 3 months and sponsor him/her on a trip to Silicon Valley for the next PandoMonthly meetup organized by PandoDaily."

      Thank you very much. I was really hoping that instead of spouting off about how I was the new problem with Nigeria, someone would just shrug their shoulders and prove me wrong. Le sigh.

      Also, if you say there are actually Instagram-level devs in Nigeria, please point the way, Bloovue is hiring. But I suspect they already work with us. 🙂

  15. I've thought about all this, tried being a techie, tried a lot of businesses; farming, transporting, printing…all doable, but as a journalist, it might just be easier doing just that than to go all out to risk my neck in the tide of becoming an Entreprenuer in Nigeria. It's not easy to realize you have to toil day and night to actually feed the families of your employees who are not even putting in their best because it's "someone else's business"! …The risk involved in agribusiness…in buying yams, cattle and goats from bauchi…or having your commercial bus head to Kaduna! You can ask Dangote how many hours he sleeps…how selfless he has become! …the government truly reflects the people – tribalism, religious fanaticism and extremism, ingratitude, greed, disunity, secessionalist tendencies, etc. ALL THESE FUEL CORRUPTION! We seem to forget that infrastructure is a minute problem comapared to our socio-cultural problems! You must be ready to die for Nigeria along with your wife and children…that is what it takes to ACHIEVE, especially if you don't have to strive too hard to take care of yourself and your family? Why will you build "an instagram" in NIGERIA and why will you throw your money to a techie to "try his dreams" when he has perfected the plan to cheat you in the business? Like I said, get ready to die for your country or stay alive and watch others die while you dodge all the PHYSICAL and PSYCHO-SOCIAL BOMBS!

  16. Let me borrow a line from MI Abaga:** we've got different goals so we ball different.** Spot on in this case

    don't get me wrong: we have a lot of issues in Nigeria but please dont tell me what we cant do.

    The tech world is very labile and startups peak and evervesce (yahoo, friendster, hi5, my space anyone?)

    Do we need an Instagram? You think developers in India would consider themselves failures for not building an 'instagram'?

    By the way there are over 500,000 apps on the Apple app store, can you name 20 without thinking? We always have one or two that will go viral (Angry Birds anyone?). For every instagram there are 10,000 others toiling in anonimity. Have you heard of Revoda app by Emeka Okoye and what the app did? Google it and you'll be amazed.

  17. Actually, let me take time to reply you properly.

    "You have almost insinuated that only the rich can develope (sic)/invent anything new or innovative."

    No, that is not what I have said. Please read the article again a bit more carefully and you'll not find any such inference.

    "Yeah you might be right we can never develope (sic) an Instagram quality app…"

    Apparently, you agree with me. Thank you.

    "Is it the $1billion offer from Facebook that has made you become so aware of these reasons?"

    No, but it is part of the reason it's easy to get your attention.

    "Do you think the developers of Instagram had $1Billion in mind when they started?"

    Well, I'd love to see the pitch deck they used to collect the $500k seed investment, as well as the over $7.5m in subsequent funding; but I'm pretty sure they didn't collect the money to sing "kumbaya".

    "The most outstanding apps are not developed with money in mind yet in Nigeria that is exactly where our interest lies."

    Bullshit. Money becomes a factor very quickly when scale is involved.

    "Apps that will improve access to healthcare, reduce govt corruption etc"

    You may be right about that, but this article isn't about healthcare or corruption (government or private), this is about Instagram.

  18. @ Seyi; u shld have put "YET" at the end of ur title to pacify the optimists!.. lol..Those that don't agree shld kindly write an article on "How to build an Instagram app in Naija"! Maybe I ll quit my job and become a techie too! Ps; Errrr Gidi-traffic is Very useful but its not an app. Find another example.. Thanks!

  19. Correction: different strokes for different folks.

    Just in case I wasn't clear: you need very specific conditions for some types of achievements. Sometimes you can replicate them and ship them around, but sometimes there is nothing you can do to create them locally and you need to realise that. The question is "do you even necessarily need those types of successes for your own condition? Do we need a $1billion company that employs less than 50people for Nigeria? Or a $100million company that employs thousands? Is Instagram the way out of crushing poverty for the millions or just another addition to the super rich elite class the "The Guardian" wrote about today. You know, the ones they opened the Porsche store for?

    Beyond just latching on to every global trend and blogging on, we (the young people) need to sit down and think about our specific conditions. I celebrate the success of these guys, but I do not seek it. And it doesn't bug me. Find me a way to help change Makoko to Venice (Ebuka we hear you) while turning a profit (think Grameen style adventures) and I'll get excited. But this? Abeg joor.

  20. Oh wow. What a blinding glimpse of the obvious?!

    No beef bro, but I honestly think we don't need more articles about why we can't do this or that. Or at least if you're going to list reasons why I might not be able to achieve something, follow up with potential solutions.. You know? The "what if we did this? Could that work variety?" It leaves your neurons firing (confirmed research).

    By the way, how many Instagram flavoured tech successes exist in the world? You need to distinguish outliers from mainstream (recommended reading: "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell). Think of the other examples; FaceBook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn. What do they have in common? There are many more developed countries in the world, ever wondered why they haven't spawned their own Instagrams? It's instructive that the developing world has a lot of the billionaires as commodities traders or providers of infrastructure that matters to their populace. And they are middle aged.

    Different folks for different folks.

  21. Spot on! If I may add another reason:

    (6.) We don't see the value 'fun' apps in Nigeria.

    It seems to me that every Nigerian app has to have some sort of 'poverty bursting' utility like many have stated above. These are the types of apps we invest in and continue to push which is necessary. However I'd argue that it requires the same amount of effort, if not less, to create an Instagram compared with the 'problem solving' apps we have plenty of. If you attempt anything remotely fun or entertaining and you get shot down (Remember this? http://yrn.me/4yv)

    We have to realise that fun & entertainment, no matter what problems exist around us, is a key part having complete lives. Actually, I'm quite certain Nigerians DO like to have e-fun; that's why Fb, mobile games, Eskimi, BBM, Twitter and dare I say Instagram has decent usage in Nigeria. Shame we only consume and never create our own.

    There's also that false impression that if you're not charging from day 1 your idea is not viable. We need to fix this mentality.

  22. " You know the people saying that 29 is too late to be a billionaire? It’s their fault you’re 33 and still joining thousands together…" – ROFLMAO that AD ehen!

    Anyways really at this point, its safe to say this is actually as realistic as it gets… all we have are the Dreams that we can build one! And the Optimist might say… a Dream is all we need.

    As a Neutralist… ( Yes we are rare but we exist! ) I'd say why must be build our own "Instagram"? What does it solve??

  23. Apparently, I'm a pessimist. All is well.

    I really wish people would calm down and read stuff first though. So much being fought that wasn't said.

    1. Your piece gave very little room for optimism.

      Do you think India with all the technological capabilities do not have similar problems as Nigeria?

      @Asemota, the day and age of such thinking is over. In this day an age, you do not need money nor education to become influential. Technology has made mass media so accessible that anybody anywhere can have an audience or user base of 1,000,000 over night if s/he has the right idea. @N, thank you for your GidiTraffic example.

      We are not the US, their indices and Key Perfomance Indicators will not apply to us. For them, success could be to becomes a tech billionaire at 30 yet for us in the 3rd world, our target age could very well be 45 years. Who cares?

      I don't know about you but I know that there is a small but very vibrant developer community in Nigeria who are charging on inspite of our local realities.

      1. @ejiro "you don't need money or education to be influential" on what planet please?? The US President example is to show the odds you are against when the constraints are glaring.

        Those who know me will tell you that I never tell anyone not to try anything. Someone asked me a question yesterday if someone from Nigerian comes and tells me he wants to develop a world class application I replied that I will listen to him because it is my job to do so as the founder of a startup accelerator but if the guy has no skills and no team I will test him for drugs.

        We must try but we must also admit there are constraints and look for how to work together to overcome them. Anyone who thinks they can overcome it alone needs to have psychiatric examination done

        1. The power of Social Media is obviously lost on you. Was it the political class that ousted Mubarak or soldiers with guns? "The new currency of power isn't money or political clout but influence."

          I just paraphrased David Plouffe's (Obama's Campaign Manager) comments during the 2010 MTN Inspire Series.

          News and opinions fly faster today not because of the proliferation of TVs and Newspapers but that of Social Media. Just like sports or the arts are a way out of punery for some people in the past, the right use of Social Media is fast become (and will remain) the way out of obscurity for a lot of people now and in the future.

          Stop peddling this 'victim' mentality, let's talk about why failure is not an option. Engage me on why we will suceed in spite of our challenges.

          And yes, a guy with no skills and no team can indeed have a vision to build a world class app. Afterall, 15 years olds in New York are doing exactly the same thing. Most times it is such 'blinding foolishness' that eventually changes the world.

  24. Ironically the 5 reasons above are the reasons why we Can build an "Instagram". Behind all the problems are solutions begging to be found.. My 2 cents.

  25. Instagram isn't that complicated to design and pls all the we don't have "instagram level developers" is (forgive my language) crap. The points above are basic reasons why we don't(nt can't)develop such apps. Education is poor(very poor),the economy doesn't support developers, mind you the Instagram founders didn't have side distractions (No Power, cost of fuel,parent pressure to find work;working for someone else). I worked for an I.T firm softCom that is specialize in app design bt companies go for indian apps over ours;which is very shocking cos we have better developers in the country. All in all it pays to go find work in Mobil or MTN make money and go on wiv the routine. If u thing we don't have the ability to design worldclass apps go read on Appfrica and findout how many nigerians participate regularly. My say.

  26. You are on point Tayo. We may have local issues that would affect us, it will only make things tougher and more difficult for us but we can achieve great things. I have mixed feelings about NYSC but I will only advocate for a change in the way NYSC is being done. Personally, through NYSC and interacting with the locals I have learnt a great deal and it will someday help (when my Start up kicks off). We have to learn to encourage people to build opportunity from the challenges around us.That is why I give a big kudos to the folks at #CCHub.

  27. I beg to disagree, some of these reasons are the very reason that apps can be developed in Nigeria. The need is there,but we may not be able to develop an instagram, but how about we develop one for a Nigerian problem? I have issues with Nigerians thinking re-inventing the wheel is all technology is about cos we do not look at needs we as a people have. Look at @GidiTraffic and tell me am wrong. If ever there was a great use for twitter that was Nigerian, I am yet to see it. Or @wakanow.com. Please,please and please, dont buy into that lie that we cant do stuff cos we cant do stuff that those in the West are doing. We dont need to! As for NYSC,its not the real reason young entrepreneurs in Nigeria are not doing great things. Its really the age we consider ourselves adults….

  28. I read a book once on the American Presidency. The first line was simple, a poor man cannot become the President of the United States, all they can do is aspire. Then they went on to say that "a poor man can aspire until he is blue in the face" but he will still not achieve that goal.

    That is the same reality we must face in Nigeria. Yes we can aspire but we can aspire until we are blue in the face but the constraints will still remain. For me the answer is simple, you find problems to solve in Nigeria and build the solution elsewhere.

    Execution is the biggest challenge and that is where self sabotage is our greatest gift. Usually tech entrepreneurs become their own enemies or they invent imaginary ones.

    They are their own enemies when they think they have a strategy when what they really have is only half a strategy. They avoid collaboration and think others (sometimes with valid reasons to believe so) will steal their ideas.

    I have shared offices with people in Lagos, I have been stabbed in the back and kicked out but it did not make me become paranoid but better at executing fast and with legal backing.

    Until we learn that 6 Nigerians can share 4 million without 2 ending up cheated or at worst assassinated we cant surmount all these constraints. Our government is a reflection of whom we truly are

  29. I love how some think that positive thinking & motivational speeches can replace infrastructure.

    1. Joachim, neither does pessimism and grumbling provide infrastructure. The point most people are making here is that we cant hands off and assume we are no good cos some of our infrasctural deficits. We could still make some success while we find a way to deal with these marauders in power. Saheed's case is a typical example of success despite the adversities. He should be celebrated and hyped all with the intention of encouraging other techies to emulate.

      Here is my mantra these days. If you already over 30 years in Nigeria, you have seen the worst and shouldn't be complaining anymore. Find a solution.

  30. I agree with your point on the NYSC. It SHOULD be voluntary.

    I finished school at age 28 and felt the NYSC thing was a timewaster, so I opted out. Everyone screamed blue murder. I didn't want to work for anyone anyway, so why should I waste one yeasr of my life in some God Knows Where?

    Today, I have been vindicated.

    I have a thriving Publishing and marketing communications firm, and an interest in a Tech company.

    Most of the same friends who said I was foolish are still searching for jobs.

    My family? Everything I say now is believed.

    NYSC is a great disservice to our youths. That's the truth.

    BTW, great article Seyi.

    Ronald Nzimora

  31. Interesting but I believe all the above mentioned are accurate but this form the basis for disruptive innovation, why not build a startup with these limiting factors in place and trust me, the world will come applauding because they can't fathom doing such here. Check out Mpesa, it revolutionized Kenya but trying moving the same model to the western world and that seems weird.I run Encipher,by all standards not the best of all startups, skewed proceses,no office, I got rid of my laptop cause I can't afford to keep moving it about, all my email and office work is done on my HTC sensation xe phone, if I need to.type a document I drive to my CFO's house and do it, we have presented to top investors etc without having an office. I use N2000 monthly 500mb internet on my phone and utilize office WiFi when I see them. When I get bored I watch a movie on Encipher Inye or read news using pulse software.I don't have nysc and don'twant to. I tell you, we have these developers, throw 200k monthly to a fresh graduate and give him 3months with perks and tell.me u won't get kickass products. The end results are always sweet, we just must learn how to all fo thru the process.I am enjoying mine very much.

    1. Thanks Saheed for giving us a view into how you are running your business. Congrats on the exposure that you have had thus far. I am still baffled by the CNN interview in silverbird about only selling 45 or so units of the INYE one. There has to be a better way to getting more units sold.

      Also i agree if u pay people well you will retain them and also reap the benefits, but people are more concerned about complaining that there is not talent, it irks me.

  32. Seyi, you havent addded much value with the recantation of the obvious challenges that bedevil businesses (especially enterpreneurs)in Nigeria. The article also reeks of a defeatist, 'if only i attended an ivy league school', inferiority complex. Please, dump the idea of becoming the next Wall street whiz-kid and focus your obvious talents on local solutions.

    The problems of power, inbuilt efficiencies and lack of ISP are local problems which wont stop a dogged tech start up. It could be tougher but dude you have been born here and there is nothing you can do about it. For the NYSC which you suppose inhibits creativity, i would advise you study the Isreali start-ups and you will discover that most of them had their ideas incubated during their 'hibernation' in military service.The interaction with locals i suppose could inspire an idea like say developing an app for the central bank that could help facilitate the distribution of agric loans. Enough opportunities abound in Nigeria despite the challenges if only we initially ignore the pull to become a celebrity techie overnight.

  33. The fact is that Nigerian companies are not ready to pay for instagram level developers. Instagram level developers would rather earn instagram level pay. Little wonder there is a massive brain drain in the country.

    I heard someone say about Nigeria's "issues" that this is where we grew up and we should be used to it. This is very true. For how many more years will you complain about nepa/phcn/…

    The main reason i see why you may have a hard time building instagram in Nigeria is SUPPORT.

  34. Uncle ST & Detola, i diasgree! Why must "our own" consistently discourage us by highlighting our obvious disadvantages.

    What I would have expected from you would have been some words to spur the budding techprenuers inspite of these challenges (IMHO, there is nothing new in what you have said).

    I really hope someone from Nigeria will stand up to and breakthrough these barriers, striking global relevance & the inevitable pay that will follow.

  35. @Ejiro,

    I think you're missing the point and getting the point at the same time.

    You see, you say the author is thinking of why that same process because there is money on the table. Yes, you're right! The instagram founders weren't busying themselves with queuing up for fuel, haggling with generator repair men or spending forever in traffic. Their government provided these things for them. Trust me if the govt didn't then they would expend their energies searching for their daily bread.

    And don't be carried away by the glossiness of the American dream. Most times, the end point is money. You should take out time to watch Tech stars on Bloomberg Network, you would find out that for every MZ (Who comes from a very comfortable family mind you) who develops 'selfless apps' there are 17,000 others who develops apps with the intent of monetizing it.

    PS: There are no apps to combat corruption and poor educational capacity. Proper infrastructure and Laws will do that.

  36. @ejiro_ IMO, your argument inadvertently supports the writer's position. You make the point that many now famous apps weren't developed with "making money" in mind. Yet, the more important point is that they were developed, at least initially, by people with little or no money. Where will the indigent person developing a socio-conscious app find the resources to develop it to a level that venture capitalists will be convinced to buy into the idea?

    The writer blames prevailing socio-economic circumstances for such programming to be available, you say apps should be developed to tackle the same issues. So, basically, if we had a country where basic stuff worked, a tech boom wouldn't be too far away…

  37. You know why we don't have Instagram level developers in Nigeria? Because our society is not ready for them. From education to patronization. An SS3 student is still learning difference between monitor and mouse when his make in America is building iPhone application. Also, for one that manages to get his skill up, it is not remotely rewarding. Talk about building sites that would take your time for paltry sums.

    We definitely have the talent, harnessing it is the next level.

    BTW, check out http://www.naijasites.com.ng Nigeria's premier news aggregator bringing you latest headlines from Naija websites and blogs. Get all the gists in one place

    1. I will check it out right now. Thanks a lot.

  38. Your opinion is the number one reason why nothing viable comes out of Nigeria.

    You have almost insinuated that only the rich can develope/invent anything new or innovative.

    Attend any tech workshop in Nigeria and participants from Silicon valley(or anywhere else but Nigeria will tell you that we have enough reasons/the capacity to develope apps relevant to us. Yeah you might be right we can never develope an Instagram quality app but do we really need such an app in the midst of our social economic challenges?

    Is it the $1billion offer from Facebook that has made you become so aware of these reasons? Cos right there is the very reason why we may never develope any news worthy app. Do you think the developers of Instagram had $1Billion in mind when they started? So once again because there is money on the table we want to talk about app develpoment in Nigeria. The most outstanding apps are not developed with money in mind yet in Nigeria that is exactly where our interest lies. Facebook,Instagram are 'top end/cool' apps developed by folks in a society that have the luxury to accomodate such ideas. Apps that will improve access to healthcare, reduce govt corruption etc will be huge hits in 3rd world countries like ours but nobody is paying attention in that direction mostly because folks like you are busy using fancy work like Instagram as examples and blaming 'the system' as usual.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail