Nigeria’s Got Talent! Global Entrepreneurship Week in Lagos, Nigeria

Recently, Mark Zuckerberg visited Nigeria. In the spirt of Global Entrepreneurship Week, I followed in his footsteps.

Walking out of the airport, the density of people was overwhelming. Driving to my hotel, I was astonished by the amount of people flooding the streets, walking along the roads, and seemingly everywhere I looked.

During his visit, Zuckerberg also focused on people. In particular, young people. As he said during his visit, “I was highly impressed by the talent of the youths in the Co-creation Hub in Yaba. I was blown away by their talent and the level of energy that I saw.” He spoke to crowds about the incredible entrepreneurial vigor in Nigeria.

The new Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEI) data released during GEW echoes the importance of talent in Nigeria. Each year, the Global Entrepreneurship Index measures the health of a nation’s ecosystem based on 14 different factors. Of those, Nigeria’s strongest asset is their human capital. As you can see from the chart below, Nigeria is competing at a global scale in terms of their human capital.

Nigeria’s overall GEI score is relatively low – 20 percent. In terms of entrepreneurial health, they rank 100th out of 137 countries. The score is measured in terms of opportunity, startup skills, technological capabilities, innovation, finance, risk, culture, competition, network and human capital. Nigeria remains relatively low in most categories, but is not unlike other Sub-Saharan African countries, as you can see from the chart above. Comparatively, the United States is number one out of 137 countries in the GEI.

However, the GEI data book emphasizes that looking at the U.S. and Nigeria next to one another can be misleading. The data book states, “contrary to popular belief, the most entrepreneurial countries in the world are not those that have the most entrepreneurs.” Nigeria has some of the highest rates of self-employment in the world, but this is because the workforce of their country is not one which supports quality jobs at the same rate as are developed in the U.S. The businesses which the self-employed are working in are commonly street vendors and similar industries, not necessarily innovative, growing companies such as in the U.S. To give some context, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurship, in 2016, 84 percent of entrepreneurs in the U.S. were opportunity entrepreneurs, meaning that they were starting businesses out of opportunity, rather than out of unemployment.

Despite the reasons for necessity self-employment in Nigeria, my Lagos trip highlighted that many people in this country are working to make a more innovative entrepreneurial ecosystem. For example, the organization Andela is making great strides finding the top tech talent in Africa, refining their technology development skills, and matching them with tech companies. Andela has also been intentional in working to neutralize gender in the technology industry.

For Nigeria to compete on a global scale, building entrepreneurial capacity is essential. Improving conditions for entrepreneurship by only 10 percent could add $354 billion to Nigeria’s economy, according to the GEI. I am emboldened by conversations happening during GEW which seem to be tackling some of the same major topics being covered in the U.S. – from the future of work, data analytics, to attracting more women into entrepreneurship.

Zuckerberg’s visit seems to be leaving a lasting effect. His hope for the entrepreneurial economy of Nigeria continues to inspire the country. The challenges Nigeria is facing are complex – governance, poverty, and development opportunities. However, the country’s people are committed to solving these difficult problems. While some of the numbers seem bleak, I get a sense something great that is about to happen. 

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