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If Andela Were An Open Ecosystem

If Andela Were An Open Ecosystem

Imagine if Andela focused on growing their network of businesses looking for technical talent, and moved the management of software projects into a well rehearsed ecosystem of agencies. Work keeps coming in, agencies focus on getting better at delivering projects, developers get to just code and work on amazing projects, and foreign businesses get the most bang for their buck. Come with me as I explore what this can look like and just what it will take.

Nigeria needs an open network revolution but it won’t happen until individuals band together for a greater collective good.

What is a network? It is a community with a clear intent. You can refer to my article that dives deeper into what a network is and how its more valuable than data.

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For instance, Nigerian youths take 1000 Naira from politicians in exchange for their votes. If you ask them they will say, I gotta eat. Its true; we all gotta eat but this individuality exchanges filling up our bellies today only to be hungry tomorrow with no hope for sustainable food supply.

When I look at the tech sector especially the software engineers, designers, content writers and other highly skilled remote friendly freelancers, I see a missing opportunity. Currently, Nigerian demand for technical talent is well below supply. You can see this because the wages of an average software developer in Nigerian employed by a Nigerian company is pitiful. Whereas, in the same Nigeria, the bonafide software developers have an earning potential that matches technical talents in Silicon Valley. Andela routinely charges US based clients $100,000/year+ for developers living in Nigeria, working remotely.

Let that sink in. I live in Orange County, CA. The standard of living here is such that you spend 25-35% on tax, 30-50% on living expenses. Your spending power  is about 25-45% of that gross income. The demand for bonafide software engineers is so high that these companies are willing to pay wages to remote developers without significantly adjusting for standard of living.

Pillar #1: Global demand for technical talent is currently insatiable.

When Andela started, Nigeria was not known as a destination for software developers. We must give it a huge shoutout for re-branding Nigeria, Africa by extension as a place to invest, and build a world class remote distributed teams. Not only did Andela rebrand Nigeria, it also built a network of world class developers and created a brand for its community. The name Andela on a resume is synonymous to Silicon Valley quality minds and technical skills. 

Unfortunately, Andela has taken more from Microsoft’s old playbook instead of Amazon’s. Andela is a closed network built strategically to drive high quality value primarily for the sole benefit of the closed community.

At Charisol, we saw this trend 2 years ago and set out to learn from Amazon to build a better network that is more open, and profits from driving outcome which reinforces and benefits the community. 

I am writing this article because I believe the  vision – to connect remote African digital talents ( developers, designers, content writers, graphic designers) – to foreign businesses like solopreneurs, start ups, small businesses and corporations, is one that requires key stakeholders to come together to share, collaborate, profit and give back.

I am a strong believer that Nigeria’s future depends on when we can create this network. Our developers individually are trying to compete on Upwork, Fiverr, Toptal; and they are increasing facing discrimination, scam reputation and many more. They are the future of Nigeria’s middle class which is the media that will transform Nigeria into a force to be reckoned with.

A lot of startups in Nigeria fail because the Nigerian populace does not possess spending power. China’s introduction to the world stage as a market to pay attention to started with “cheap labor” producing employment; employment which created value; value that raised foreign exchange; foreign exchange that built a middle class.

Economists do not look at 1.4 billion people when they do market analysis of China. They look at 300 million middle class spenders. To borrow from a point in the article – data is not the essential value but network. The middle class in China is the network that business owners want to get their products to. Until Nigeria develops a larger middle class, our position as the most populous black nation will remain an enigma. A trap that lures investors and entrepreneurs only to assume ROI but encounter a death trap.

Returning to the Chinese playbook, let’s make the global gig economy, Nigeria’s version of China’s manufacturing revolution. But what is this going to take? Glad you asked. 

A clear vision that we can rally around designed to benefit its creators ONLY when the community profits. Nigeria must lead the way in making remote work supreme and advantageous to employers, and businesses that encounter our approach.

The pillars of this network looks like these:

  • Recognize the value foreign employers perceive in remote workers start with: Clear Communication. Resolute Dedication. Honest Work. Competence. Results.
  • Every Nigerian remote talent takes a pledge; one that identifies and engrains the fact that our actions and the experience of foreign employers with us is an interaction that affects more than an individual. We represent a Nigerian remote brand.
  • Lead with results, and outcomes for your client and pay will follow.
  • Solve for availability. In a remote world, clients need 24/7 accessibility. If you try to be a lone wolf and never sleep; you will burn out. This reinforces your need to be part of a community.

On the business side, I truly believe developers should not be taking on gigs as individuals. We need a network that looks like these:

  • Micro Tech Agencies: instead of having developers that are SEO, Design, frontend, backend etc experts; master of none. We need agencies that look more like these  3 friends – React developer + Designer + Project Manager.
    • Notice the clarity of the skills.In this example, it is a Javascript React mini dev agency. It is not a-bring-every-development-job agency. This allows tech talents to hone and further develop their skills in order to rise to the level that is the minimum threshold for foreign businesses.
    • Because developers are the modern day manufacturers, guarding their time is important. Designers and Project managers can take turn in managing client expectations and communications. 
    • Imagine you go to China to manufacture your goods. Would you go to a factory worker or go to a manufacturing company? Developers, you need more than soft skills. Unless you have just one client, there will not be enough time in the day to produce and manage all the needs of your clients alone.
  • Platforms: 
    • Thought Leadership Demonstration: Because github houses intellectual property, using it to showcase expertise is not much of a viable option. Content is benign way of demonstration thought leadership in a way that shows off the indegous flavor to problem solving that we possess as Nigerians. It could be a medium publishing, an online forum, a reddit community, anywhere that stories, insights etc can be shared to grow the community and capture the imagination of foreign business owners. Diversity is a prominent ingredients for great products and a platform like this can showcase and attract those who value it.
    • Open Source Software: Imagine if like LinkedIn, there are APIs to request detail profiles of remote talents based on search/filter criteria. An up to date registry of the tech talents in Nigeria that makes it easier for people with networks that include business owners looking for talent to connect requests for talent to the right level of skill quickly.
    • Managed Network of Foreign Business Leaders: the supply side for this ecosystem is very important. Creating a process for requests to be verified, understood, defined, priced and executed will most certainly be of value. An advantage of this network can have over upwork is the setup to consistently exceed expectations. This doesn’t happen through random uncoordinated efforts.
  • Governance: A process by which the community is continuously intentionally designed to better serve and be served.

At Charisol, this is the vision we wake up to everyday. Some days we feel inadequate, other days we are intoxicated when we see our stakeholders get outcomes that matches their definition of value. 

Designers, Developers, Dev Agencies, Design Agencies, Branding and Marketing companies, Content Writers, etc come join the network, write for the community, be the community and share the vision!

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