Ten years ago, Nigeria’s technology community was just a group of young people asking- how can technology change Nigeria? A decade later, it has grown into a $2 billion industry with tentacles across Africa. Technology companies like Paystack, Andela, Flutterwave and Terragon are creating thousands of jobs and producing millions of dollars more in value for our country.
But as my waffi friends will say, no be today. Nigeria’s leadership may be stuck in the stone ages but its innovators have always stood on the precipice of the future. Technology Visionaries like Dr. Denloye and Dr. Burian Carew helped build Telnet which produced revolutionary companies like ipNX and Interswitch. Florence Seriki built Omatek which changed the local hardware scene. Seni Williams from Tara Systems and John Obaro from Systemspecs built category-defining and globally recognized technology for the HR and Banking industries. A country that had no cell phones just a little over 20 years ago now has telecoms companies making billions of dollars in annual revenue. This is Nigerian excellence.
Last year, I tried to retire. I had been unhappy for a while at the company I co-founded and the only bright spot in my life was starting a family with an amazing woman. But then God has an incredible sense of humour. Right as I was about to pack my things and flee – Mme Oby Ezekwesili declared to run for the office of President of Nigeria. My relationship with her has spanned the better part of my life. She says jump, I respond how high? Naturally, I got on an incredible learning journey with Mme Oby’s. campaign. It remains one of my best decisions to date.
Working for the campaign gave me a chance to truly see Nigeria for what it is – good, bad, ugly and awesome. I experienced the incredible gap in realities we have in our country – across age, gender, class, industries, religion and ethnicities. Most importantly I saw a country grappling with fundamental questions about its future. So many really can’t afford to think beyond the next meal. The thought alone would kill them.
In the end, I came to the same conclusion as William Gibson – “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”.
In Peter Thiel’s Zero to One, he talks about the future. In his words, your society can be optimist or pessimist. It may also have a concrete image of the future or one that’s fuzzy.
Over the last four years since the 2015 elections, I have watched our society go from optimism to pessimism on account of our country’s challenges. In 2015 we hoped for change without any clear ideas for how that change will happen. In 2019 after “dem no give us change”, we felt consigned to the doom of the lesser of two evils without any idea how bad the evil could get. Many of us couldn’t even be bothered to vote and the majority are resigned to the reality that things will probably get worse and the only thing they can do about it is leave.
What was missing in 2015 and what is missing now in 2019 is a clear, long term vision of what the future of Nigeria and Africa should be. Sure, there are a few scattered conversations about the future here and there but few are inclusive.
This is why I believe now is time for us to build as a community – an African vision of the future. We need a conversation about the future that is grounded in our myriad of realities; extreme poverty in the midst of extreme wealth, a youthful population lacking productivity and purpose; ethnic rivalry and pan-African pride, visionary autocracies and rudderless democracies. All perspectives are welcome.
As the Economist informs us, another scramble for Africa has begun. It isn’t hard to see why. Over the next 50 years, more than half of the world’s working population will live in Africa. Our greatest challenge and opportunity will be building a future that is in Africa’s interest. We can only do this by having frank conversations in public about where we are now, how we got here, and what we need to do to build a future that works for all Africans.
Today, my co-founders; Olabinjo Adeniran and Adenike Sheriff and I are taking the first step towards starting this conversation with future.africa
future.africa is a community in a deep conversation on Africa’s future. We will take informed opinions about the future (and history) of Africa and turn them into simplified and engaging content which generates robust conversations about our collective future that everyone can participate in. In doing so, we hope to educate and inspire three groups of people :
Entrepreneurs who want to leverage new technologies, networks and tools to build the future in Africa.
Companies who are wondering how they must now evolve to continue to exist in the future.
And most importantly, the public who needs to understand how the future could be built in the public interest.
We want you to help us begin this conversation about Africa’s future. Are you a prophet who has seen the future or just someone who has an interesting story or perspective to share? Send an email to email@example.com. Our community would love to hear from you. Also if you are excited about our mission to educate and inspire everyone to build an African future – join our community by subscribing here. You can also send us suggestions, thoughts, ideas and love letters to the email address above.
When I reflect on how technology has changed our lives over the last 10 years, I’m even more excited about the future it will help us build over next 50 years. Conversations about the future are too important to be held behind closed doors.
As usual, the son of a Pastor will end with a Bible verse. In the book of Habakkuk 2:2, it says
“Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.”
Welcome to the future.
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