Tech Start-UPS, you cannot do without the Federal Government: Organize rather than COMPLAIN and CONDEMN…

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No MATTER HOW INNOVATIVE OR DISRUPTIVE YOUR INNOVATION IS, one FEDERAL GOVERNMENT POLICY CAN CLOSE YOUR BUSINESS – Know this and KNOW PEACE but DO THE NEEDFUL… Read below!!!!

I remember speaking with some tech bros and sis sometime in January 2020 where I was clearly articulating one of the major shortcomings or shortfalls of the Nigerian Tech Ecosystem. They are aloof, disconnected, hardly organized as a unit, and everyone seems to be more concerned with business valuation, raising capital, and service delivery to the customer (all important parts of running a start-up company).

They forget one IMPORTANT FACTOR: KNOWING YOUR REGULATORS AND HAVING AN ORGANISED VOICE that LOBBIES and ADVOCATES on YOUR BEHALF, I gave an example of FOUR PROMINENT BODIES in Nigeria that the Federal Government must engage with before any major POLICY CHANGES ARE MADE, they are the Organised Private Sector (Mostly Nigerian Businesses whose impact is important to the Nigerian Economy), Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (Mostly Private Sector Employers of Labour), Nigerian Labour Congress (Mostly Government Employees) and Trade Union Congress (Mostly Informal Workers), the Federal Government or its agencies including the National Assembly don’t take important decisions without consulting with them and agreeing on a way forward, there are so many examples from Rice to Milk, to Petrol to many other basic everyday service and product.

Go and check all these BODIES, you will see the SIGNIFICANT ABSENCE of Start-Up Tech Companies particularly the new generation ONES, we like to feel like we don’t have to rally round any one LEADER because of the MISTRUST we have for ASSOCIATIONS OR SECTORAL UNBRELLAS but we forget that GOVERNMENT POLICIES are run by ORGANISED BODIES before they are announced or made, Nigeria does not have an organised BODY for its START-UP ECOSYSTEM, what we have in abundance are TECH INCUBATORS, ACCELERATORS and CAHOOT of friends with few connections in government who can speak to Government officials to WIN CONTRACTS or get appointments (which is not bad in itself) but when we make all these noise on SOCIAL MEDIA about how bad Government POLICIES are, do we have an organised UMBRELLA that can negotiate these POLICIES, do we have an ORGANISED BODY that gets first hand information on POLICIES Government AGENCIES or BODIES are about to IMPLEMENT before they are IMPLEMENTED, are there recognised BODIES in Nigeria that the Central Bank of Nigeria or Federal Government can engage with that represents the INTEREST of the entire TECH ECOSYSTEM in Nigeria? I don’t think so and even if there are, it is OBVIOUS that TECH START-UPS are yet to LOBBY round a CENTRAL LEADER.

Many of these START-UPS have a LEAN POLICY AND GOVERNMENT RELATIONS FUNCTION in their BUSINESSES? You employ 3 – 5 persons if they even get to 5 persons to run and manage your POLICY AND GOVERNMENT RELATIONS Unit and you expect that government will not do your START-UP STRONG thing when you are so UNDER-STAFFED and unprepared for what comes?

In ending this RANT, let me share some thoughts here on a way forward:

The Nigerian Global Affairs Council (NiGAC) can host a POLICY ROUNDTABLE for all STAKEHOLDERS within the Start-UP ecosystem on how a CONGRESS or ASSOCIATION recognized by law and a part of the Organised Private Sector (Mostly Nigerian Businesses whose impact is important to the Nigerian Economy), Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (Mostly Private Sector Employers of Labour), Nigerian Labour Congress (Mostly Government Employees) and Trade Union Congress (Mostly Informal Workers) (OPS, NECA, NLC, and TUC) can be created so that whenever Government wants to release a new guideline or make a major POLICY CHANGE, players within the industry can have firsthand knowledge and adjust their operations in time for the announcement particularly if the government and certain powerful interest are really bent on implementing a POLICY CHANGE that impacts the INDUSTRY – We can talk about this via email if you are interested in planning this sometime around September 2021: elda@nigac.org

Tech Companies must LEARN to engage the services of Federal Government Alumni (Ex-Legislative Aides, Special Assistants, Special Advisers, Ministers, Director-Generals, Commissioners, and Technical Advisers) – these ones will be very INSTRUMENTAL in knowing how to LOBBY for GOOD POLICIES on behalf of your START-UP and the ECOSYSTEM. You must be willing to pay them GOOD MONTHLY WAGES and ensure that they have a ROBUST TEAM they work with. These folks are always on the lookout for OPPORTUNITIES, they can become your CONSULTANTS or full-time EMPLOYEES dependent on the compensation PACKAGE you are able to OFFER.

I will go back to NUMBER one – FORM AN ASSOCIATION, HAVE A CLEAR TERM OF REFERENCE OF THE OBJECTIVES OF THE ASSOCIATION, LET THE ASSOCIATION BECOME AN ACTIVE MEMBER OF THE Organised Private Sector (Mostly Nigerian Businesses whose impact is important to the Nigerian Economy), Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (Mostly Private Sector Employers of Labour), Nigerian Labour Congress (Mostly Government Employees) and Trade Union Congress (Mostly Informal Workers) (OPS, NECA, NLC, AND TUC). As Individual STARTUP companies, JOIN these BODIES AND BE VERY ACTIVE, be VISIBLE and you will surely get carried along and be duly notified when some major changes are coming. This cannot be over-emphasized. ORGANISE around an IDEAL which is to protect and promote the interest of the ASSOCIATION and its MEMBERS, Yes YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY MEMBERSHIP DUES but in return, you will DEMAND VALUE and get VALUE. The Nigerian Global Affairs Council (NiGAC) can organize these efforts in a non-partisan manner, interested? reach out to us too: elda@nigac.org.

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Start-UPS, we cannot operate from the SIDELINES and expect to make some changes, in advanced economies, there are strong UNIONS, ASSOCIATIONS AND BODIES that represents the interest of the TECH ECOSYSTEM and tech companies hire and retain the services of LOBBYIST, and consultants with assess to government agencies and officials particularly ALUMNI (Ex-appointees). Nigeria seems to be the ONLY COUNTRY where we LOVE TO COMPLAIN and run DOWN DANGOTE for doing what he MUST to survive in a system where POLITICIANS are short-term THINKERS, these ones don’t care about the LONG-TERM IMPACT of their DECISIONS, they are SIMPLY CONCERNED about entrenching their OWN interest during their stint in OFFICE so if we must STRIVE, we must PLAY their GAME COVERTLY and OPENLY.

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Have I made sense? Share your thoughts with me at elda@nigac.org or policyposition@nigac.org

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EldaDavid Kehinde Samuel is a Resident Policy Fellow at the Nigerian Global Affairs Council (NiGAC). This write-up is part of the Nigerian Global Affairs Council (NiGAC) Policy Simplification Goals which is a component of the NIGAC’s Citizens Accountability Project. Through our Policy Simplification Efforts, we are COMMITTED to keeping CITIZENS duly informed of Governments programs and policies in a manner that is exciting to read and easy to understand – to know more about the NIGAC, check us out: https://nigac.org/

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