On Africa, Technology, And Telling Important Stories 

A little over 18 months ago, I was a fresh, beady-eyed unemployed graduate. I had my degree in hand and all I wanted was an opportunity - something to throw myself at. 

Nigeria doesn't exactly have opportunities lying around for people like me and I wasn't going to be one of those many Nigerians who sat on their hands and waited for stuff to come to them. So I went all out in search of a place for myself in Nigeria's unkind - and some will say perilous - job market.

You see, I was determined to beg, borrow, or steal to get my life in the direction I wanted. In Nigeria, as a graduate you can only ask your mother for money to cut your hair a certain number of times before she starts to ask you what your purpose is in life. That was the reality in the Nigeria I knew. Seriously.

Still, something had to give. Several applications and 6 interviews into the month, and I still had nothing. At this point, I was pretty much depressed. What did I have to do? I read books, I attended vigils, , I practiced interview responses, I took online courses, I watched seminars, I damn near took interview classes. Still, nothing

I have always been interested in technology, even as a kid. The way stuff worked just intrigued me. I wanted to know, I wanted to prod, I had to discover. My mother couldn't afford to get me toys but those I got as birthday gifts, she let me tinker with. Naturally, as I went through school, I gravitated towards the sciences. Within a short time, I was 'buying time' at Internet cafés to read up on the latest mobile phones and tech wizardry. 

The thing is, somewhere along my journey through childhood, I also came to love certain kinds of literature and putting down my thoughts into words was something that I found incredibly satisfying. My persistence paid off eventually and I got a job doing what I love to do - writing. However, when I was put in charge of the tech category on the media platform I work for, I knew next to nothing about tech journalism. 

Sometimes when two concepts marry, one of two things are birthed as a result of that union - an explosive  friction or  a buttery alliance. That is one way of saying I found a way to combine my love for writing with the satisfactory curiosity technology brought out of me. And so began my journey into the unknown (to me, at least) realm of Nigerian technology and journalism. 

The Nigerian tech space is arguably still taking baby steps but boy is it growing so fast. Nigeria has gone from marveling at GSM technology just a few years ago, to building world class solutions for its local problems. Incubators and co-working spaces are popping up everywhere and the demand gap for coders/developers seems to widen everyday. Even the American tech scene did not get going this quick.

All of that are things to rejoice over, but there is a lot more to do. High-speed Internet infrastructure is still abysmal and local investors are still abrasive to the idea of investing in local startups (granted we are making some progress on this front). Despite the fact that there are quite a growing number of tech clusters, the Nigerian tech ecosystem is yet to get busy. 

Does any of this diminish what has been accomplished over the past few years? Does it take away from the sacrifices and sheer courage it took to get here? Hell, no. Despite a hard-biting recession, a lackadaisical government, and Nigeria's dying collective spirit, we have managed to attract the likes of Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Y Combinator's top two men - Michael Siebel (CEO) and Qasar Younis (COO). 

When people like this co-sign something, the world listens. It means that years of pliancy and tenacity, of sheer will to make the best out of what we have, have resulted in something exciting. Something good enough to make the 7th richest man in the world, the Mark Zuckerberg, believe that Nigeria will play a part in taking the world to greater technological heights. That, no one can downplay. 

From becoming a blank-faced novice not so long ago, I have grown to become fascinated with technology in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. The endless optimism in the eyes of Nigerian tech founders, the courage of its incubators and accelerators (like CcHub), the almost shocking resolve I've seen manifest in startup offices and team meetings, and more, have shown me how much this story needs to be told. 

Like the story of my journey to discovering tech journalism, Nigeria's real tech story is one that should be told - and told right too. Not because it has all the grass-to-grace metrics working for it, but because Nigeria, and Africa, has more to offer the world than the world realizes. Africa is more than a 'black continent', or a hunger infested wasteland. Africans are real people who are tenacious, dynamic and fantastically innovative. Our cultures are rich with history, our land is blessed with enviable natural resources, and our people are exceptionally brilliant. The world, whether it likes it or not, must see Africa for what it is, instead of what it wants it to be. 

Africa deserves genuine, holistic visual representation to the world. We have to - and will - tell our own stories, how they should be told.  

@TheFolarin

Photo Credit: TheNextWeb.


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