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Interswitch Addresses Nigerian ‘Brain-Drain’ Narrative

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Interswitch Addresses Nigerian 'Brain-Drain' Narrative

The exodus of talent from developing economies known as the ‘brain-drain’ syndrome remains a critical issue of concern, affecting not only the human resource development index of these economies but also cascading into numerous additional multiplier effects that militate against socio-economic growth and development.

It appears the trend of highly-skilled Nigerian professionals from diverse fields, notably in sectors like health, technology and education, leaving the shores of the country for Europe, America and Canada in search of greener pasture is accentuating almost on daily basis.

Companies in the technology innovation space in Nigeria, especially fintechs and banks are witnessing an increasing trend in which the prime of our software engineering talent are being head-hunted and recruited by the best companies in the world, then herded off to North America, Middle East, Western and Eastern Europe, with attractive and widely unmatchable employment offers. Ironically, the bulk of these young men and women attended Nigerian universities and have been nurtured by local fintechs to the level where they’re able to comfortably compete with the best from anywhere in the world, and as such appear attractive to these foreign technology enterprises.

According to a recent feature published by Quartz Africa, the exodus follows a decade of triumphs for the ecosystem which has recorded several startup and tech hub launches and attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in investment. The report interestingly highlights that while Lagos is the most valuable of Africa’s biggest tech ecosystems, it is also the least lucrative for software engineers, drawing comparisons between earnings of developers in Lagos against elsewhere and estimating that software engineers in Lagos earn around $5,000 less annually – a shortfall which is very likely causing many to seek higher-paying opportunities elsewhere.

For the Interswitch Group, it has become a case of seeing the glass as half-full, rather than being despondent, as far as the situation is concerned. With a view to not only promote the study of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in Nigeria, but also to consciously re-frame the narrative around the issue of brain-drain of talented Nigerians to other markets, Interswitch recently recruited a number of Software Engineers to participate in a six-month internship programme at the organization. According to the company, this vision draws analogies from the renaissance that Nigeria has witnessed, notably in the entertainment sector (i.e. music and movies), which have boomed in recent years on the strength of the sheer resilience and sprit of enterprise of Nigerians, without a necessary dependence on government intervention.

These young Nigerians, who are currently being trained under the Interswitch Internship Programme, were selected through a careful process after a widespread call was made for newly graduated software engineers to apply.  The six-month intensive training will be focused on teaching the graduates basic engineering theories as well as real – life application and is designed to be an ongoing effort.

Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer at Interswitch, Mr Mitchell Elegbe, shed light on the company’s determination to ensure that these graduates develop into great engineers who can not only contribute to the growth of the local economy but can also go on to compete in the global tech marketplace, with potential benefits that would accrue to Nigeria, their home country. 

He said, “At Interswitch, we have a maxim that speaks to the capacity to ‘see beyond the big picture’, and that is exactly what we have chosen to do, against the backdrop of the seemingly negative sentiment around what appears to be the exacerbating loss of valuable talent to foreign markets. Instead of complaining about the problem, we are taking the “bull by the horns” and challenging the prevalent mindset.

“We strongly believe that Interswitch is well positioned to contribute to re-writing the narrative around the issue of brain-drain from Africa.

“The reality is that whilst we may not be able to contain the exodus in the short term, the onus lies on tech firms like ours to aggressively raise a new generation of talent not just to meet our own recruitment requirements, but to replenish the talent pipeline for the local industry.

“Our view is that we are in a position to champion this cause by grooming technology talent who are not only relevant within the local context but essentially also able to compete in a globalized world in which talent is in geographical flux”.

Mr Elegbe further elucidated that Interswitch recognizes fintech talent export as a trend that can positively impact the economy and indeed the future of Nigeria.

He highlights that “Many years ago, we witnessed the remarkable growth of nascent industries such as what we call ‘Nollywood’ and of course, the music industry, into what today are significant economic and reputational capital contributors capable of contributing to the nation’s economy, harnessing local skills and technologies”.

Besides being trained by the experts at Interswitch, he adds that some of the graduate interns who excel during the programme will be considered for subsequent full-time employment at Interswitch. While the others would be prepped to add value to the burgeoning wider technology and entrepreneurship landscape in Nigeria, others may be inclined to choose to expose themselves to opportunities on the global scene.

These opportunities offer some latent, currently overlooked but highly feasible benefits to the Nigerian economy, including a potential to boost the trend of international remittances into the country with obvious positive economic impact.

Interswitch interestingly takes a view that the “brain drain” trend should not be an indicator of doom as the world is invariably starting to recognize that Nigeria has a talent pool of tech-savvy workforce who can contribute to this fast evolving and growing global economy.

Commenting on the academy and internship programme, Babafemi Ogungbamila, Group Chief Information Officer at Interswitch further volunteers that “At Interswitch we believe that the exposure that these young men and women will have would augment their commendable effort at self-investment, with a view to becoming best-in-class developers and architects.

“These young people will represent the next generation of fintech entrepreneurs who after their stints abroad/ or during their stints abroad will build the next amazon, google or whatever will change the world 3-5 years from now. We have a unique opportunity to globally brand Nigeria as the source of uniquely qualified computing expertise and with time, the home of technological ingenuity.”

Babafemi further said, “The interns will spend the first three months with Interswitch, learning the theoretical application of software engineering. This will be more of a classroom arrangement, but the next three months after that will be spent gaining hands-on work experience in engineering and software development.

“In line with our company culture, we do not just want to train young people, but we want to equip them with those skills and experiences that will make them software engineers who can compete favourably with their counterparts globally.

“Our Human Resources department, together with the Technology group, are working hard to ensure these fresh graduates are developed not only to become great engineers but also to integrate relevant work-place readiness skills that are critical in the dynamic contemporary context of the world we currently live in, and this is going to be an ongoing initiative.”

For Interswitch Group, the leading Pan-African digital payment solutions providers, the internship programme is geared at creating a positive net-effect by training more individuals in software engineering, thereby helping to stabilize talent locally in fintech (in view of the exodus to other markets), thereby driving national development.

This is one of the ways the organization hopes to contribute to the reduction of the high rate of unemployment in the country, having consistently embarked on sustainable social responsibility projects; a case in point being the ongoing InterswitchSPAK which is geared towards the promotion of interest in STEM studies for senior secondary students in Nigeria. 

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Jobs/Appointments

Investors Pump $10m into SeamlessHR for Expansion

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SeamlessHR

By Adedapo Adesanya

SeamlessHR, a startup that builds world-class cloud solutions to help organisations manage most HR processes on one platform, has raised $10 million in its Series A funding round which will see it expand to new frontiers in Southern and East Africa.

This funding round was led by TLcom Capital, with significant contributions from Capria Ventures, Lateral Capital, Enza Capital, Ingressive Capital, and some private investors.

The new fund is coming just about a year after announcing a seed round. The fresh capital is expected to further strengthen the company’s position as Africa’s leading cloud HR and payroll platform.

The new funds will also help the company achieve its vision of helping more African businesses become more productive and successful.

In addition, SeamlessHR will be launching a new embedded finance product to help improve the lives of working people across Africa, and will also add new product functionalities around AI and HR data analytics.

The endorsements of new investors like TLcom and Capria follow investments made by Lateral Capital, Enza Capital, and Ingressive Capital will help it achieve these.

Speaking on this, the company’s CEO, Dr Emmanuel Okeleji said, “We are fanatical about customer success, and this funding will enable us to invest in the continuous optimisation of customer experience across all touchpoints, adding new features and functionalities to empower our customers even more.”

Adding her input, Ms Andreata Muforo, Partner at TLcom Capital, expressed her “belief in our ability to unlock more value in Africa’s business-to-business (B2B) space.”

“Over the last few years, SeamlessHR has consistently demonstrated its ability to deliver a robust HR and payroll platform for Africa’s medium and large businesses.

“The strong execution shown by Emmanuel and his team is a vital ingredient required to build a successful business, and as they expand their products to include embedded finance and launch their solutions to new markets, we’re proud to partner alongside them and strengthen their push to unlock more value within Africa’s B2B space.

“At TLcom, we believe SeamlessHR can be the preferred platform for businesses to digitise workplaces and support their personnel,” she noted.

Mr Will Poole, the Managing Partner at Capria noted, “SeamlessHR is addressing the needs of African enterprises in ways that the global giants can’t compete with by building customer-centric SaaS designed from the ground-up to address complexity unique to the continent.

“Now that they’ve proven they can address the needs of disparate countries across Africa, we are confident that they will be the solution provider of choice to support their customers that are expanding globally.”

SeamlessHR is the only enterprise-grade HR and payroll SaaS company in Africa that fully manages the entire lifecycle on one platform.

Its clientele spreads across multiple sectors and regions in Africa, including renowned brands like PwC, Flutterwave, Sterling Bank, TGI Group, Lagos Business School, AXA, and Chapel Hill Denham.

SeamlessHR was founded in 2018 by Dr Emmanuel Okeleji and Deji Lana – who currently serve in their capacities as CEO and CTO respectively.

The platform equips clients and their people with the cutting-edge tools required to remain ahead of the rapidly changing HR management curve.

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FG Appoints Matthew Pwajok as NAMA Acting MD

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Matthew Pwajok

By Adedapo Adesanya

The federal government has appointed Mr Matthew Pwajok, a former Director of Operations, as the acting Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).

Mr Pwajok takes over from Captain Fola Akinkuotu whose tenure expired on January 7, 2022.

The appointment of Mr Pwajok, who retired from service in December 2021 was contained in a letter emanating from the Ministry of Aviation, Human Resource Management with a reference number FMA/PS/APPT/CEO/014/1/23.

The letter titled Appointment of Director to Oversee the Office of the Managing Director/CEO and signed by A.D Muhammad for the Minister read: “I am directed to inform you that the Minister has approved that Mr Pwajok Mathew Lawrence, Director of Operations, to oversee the Office of the Managing Director pending the appointment of a substantive MD/CEO.

“You are to kindly accord the director all the necessary support and cooperation he needs while overseeing the office.

“While thanking you for your usual cooperation, please accept the esteem regards of the minister.”

Established by the Act of Parliament No. 48, commencement date of 29th May 1999, NAMA provides safe, efficient, effective and economic air navigation services to airspace users, through the deployment of new technologies and a dedicated workforce.

The agency provides air traffic services in Nigeria, including air traffic control, visual and non-visual aids, aeronautical telecommunication services and electricity supplies relating thereto, to enable public transport, private, business and military aircraft.

NAMA secures the safety, efficiency and regularity of air navigation; procure, install and maintain adequate communication, navigation and surveillance and air traffic management facilities at all airports in Nigeria and ensures there is effective coordination in the use of Nigerian airspace in line with established standards and procedures.

It has a governing board headed by a part-time chairman, who is appointed by the President for a term of four years.

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UN Reappoints Amina Mohammed as Deputy Secretary-General

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Amina Mohammed

By Adedapo Adesanya

Nigeria’s Ms Amina Mohammed has been reappointed as the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.

In delegating development coordination to the Deputy Secretary-General, the Secretary-General of the UN, Mr Antonio Guiterres set in motion the most ambitious reform in the history of the UN development system.

Ms Mohammed’s leadership helped advance the conceptual shift from the UN that the Member States called for in adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Over the last five years, the UN Sustainable Development Group was strengthened to enhance global leadership and oversight for the development and the UN established a strengthened UN Resident Coordinator system as the foundation of a more effective development system.

The Secretary-General expressed his appreciation for the Deputy Secretary-General’s leadership of the UN Sustainable Development Group and her determination to reinforce collective results and maximize the impact of the UN development’s system on the ground.

“From our robust response to the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis; through a boost in climate action and unprecedented momentum for Financing for Development; to her strong emphasis on coherence across humanitarian, political and development action – her role was instrumental in keeping the SDGs alive at the country level and protecting the Paris Agreement, despite significant headwinds,” he said in a statement.

Prior to first assuming her role as Deputy Secretary-General in January 2017, Ms Mohammed served as Minister of Environment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Special Adviser to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Post-2015 Development Planning.

Before joining the UN, she worked for three successive administrations in Nigeria, serving as Special Adviser on the Millennium Development Goals, providing advice on issues including poverty, public sector reform and sustainable development, and coordinating poverty reduction interventions.

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