In recent times, an exodus of tech talent (mostly software developers) from Nigeria started and has grown. Some of our best developers are leaving the country for much better options elsewhere. I have bad news: this talent exodus is not a new thing to Nigeria and it will get worse before it gets better.
Those of us who lived through the 1980s are familiar with the term brain drain. We are talking about the same thing as a talent exodus. And it has not abated till now. As a matter of fact, it has gotten worse.
Tech Is Not A Bubble
Before tech, our best doctors left for Saudi Arabia. Our best footballers are in Europe. Our best economists left. Our best scientists are with NASA and other agencies around the world. Our best athletes are in the US and UK. Our best lecturers are in universities around the world. Even our best musicians are in the flow too.
Why the heck does anyone think that tech can be, or would be, different?
Talent Exodus, Because The House Always Wins
Do you see the picture? Let me put it in plain terms: the Nigerian environment wins. The house always wins.
The lack of infrastructure and lack of policy focus by government that constantly seeks to knock individuals and organisations down is also responsible for this situation where the best hands leave. Sadly, the result is that we never have the critical mass required to change things.
Talent exodus. Brain drain. Whatever terminology you prefer, this will continue until we fix the environment.
Water Out Of Rock
I salute everyone who is striving to excel in this messed up country. A lot of people are drawing water from the rock. Very commendable. But there is only so much that individual brilliance can achieve when the environment is messed up. Till that environment changes, our best hands will mostly be found elsewhere.
We cannot build the most amazing companies and startups without basic infrastructure. I have expressed this line of thought before. The cost of running anything in Nigeria is insanely higher than of doing it in most other countries of the world. Power. Roads. Taxes. Government flip-flopping and regulations. Broadband internet.
We must not forget support services (technicians, artisans, etc) too. The lack of adequately skilled personnel is a problem that a talent exodus only makes worse. We do not have enough skilled people, and then the cream of the crop get pulled out.
Success Is Not Good Enough
Without robust and dependable infrastructure and policies, we cannot build the companies that will retain our best hands. Our businesses cannot compete favourably. Note that I didn’t say they cannot be successful. Success at the local level is one thong. Competing internationally is a totally different matter. To retain the best hands in a global market, you have got to be able to compete with the best.
Sadly, without our best hands, we cannot build those companies that stand a chance of ranking among the best in the world. The chicken and the egg. But to even get started, we must advocate for better governance. We cannot stem this exodus by individual might. Governance is key.
One day, we will put the right people in government and we can settle down and properly build this country. And over time, the exodus shall come to an end. Till then, don’t sweat it. If you get that call from the USA or from planet Akaroid, and the deal is what you’ve been dreaming of, sign the contract and sail with the ship. It is okay to love and support Nigeria from outside.