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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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Chams Appoints Former UBA MD/CEO to Board

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By Aduragbemi Omiyale

A former Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc in Tanzania, Mr Ayobola Abiola, has been appointed to the board of directors of Chams Plc.

Mr Abiola headed the Tanzanian operations of the leading financial institution for four years and was also and the General Manager/Divisional Director in charge of Corporate Banking at UBA. He was once the Senior Vice President and Head of West & Lagos Regions at First City Monument Bank (FCMB).

In a statement issued by the Legal Adviser of Chams, Ms Yetunde Emmanuel, it was disclosed that Mr Abiola will be on the board of the organisation as a non-executive director effective July 1, 2022.

The new board member is an economics, banking, finance and tax expert with over 25 years of cognate experience in investment, commercial and mortgage banking.

He is the founder and Chief Executive Officer Capstone Development (West Africa) Limited, a real estate investment and advisory firm. He was until recently the Executive Director, Business Development and Treasury Services at Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), a position he was appointed to by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Prior to joining FMBN, he was Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fullhouse Advisory Partners, an Investment and financial advisory services firm which specializes in capital raising, project finance and investment advisory services.

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How Businesses Can Focus on Employees to Avoid The Great Resignation

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The Great Resignation

By Hyther Nizam

Across the globe, The Great Resignation has become a source of concern among businesses. It refers to the unprecedented number of workers quitting their jobs in the Covid-19 and post-pandemic eras.

In Nigeria, businesses have recently seen their fair share of voluntary employee resignations. Most notable was the “big quit,” an exodus of top tech talents from Nigerian Banks. Nigerian millennials and Gen Zers, who comprise a large percentage of job-hoppers, also account for the majority of the young workforce population in the country. Now, they are re-evaluating their working experiences after the hard hit of the pandemic. The Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey reveals that the youngest generations in the workplace are now seeking balance, prioritising happiness, and expressing higher expectations for compensation.

With an unemployment rate of just over 33%, you may think few employed Nigerians can really afford to leave their jobs. But the truth is, even here, employers aren’t immune to The Great Resignation. Thanks to the rise of remote work, Nigerian workers (especially those with in-demand skills) can truly compete in the global job market, and not limit themselves to regional roles. They have faced many of the same pressures as other workers around the world as a result of the pandemic, meaning they have the same temptations to start their own businesses or enter the freelance market.

What can businesses do to avoid losing employees to the Great Resignation? While the answer may vary depending on industry and market, the one universally key solution is to earn employee support.

The importance of employee loyalty

Before digging into how organisations can earn employee support, it’s important to remember why it matters. Losing an employee can take a big toll on your company (with the effect magnified for smaller organisations). On average, it takes 41 days to fill a position. That’s 41 days other people in the business have to do all of a former employee’s duties in addition to their own.

Further, replacing an employee can be incredibly expensive. According to the analytics and advisory company, Gallup, it can cost one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary to replace them. Whichever way you cut it, you could give that employee a substantial salary increase and it would still be more financially viable than replacing them.

It’s also worth pointing out that there’s a positive correlation between good employee experiences and good customer experiences. That makes sense—a single positive interaction with an employee can dramatically alter how a customer perceives and experiences the company. The chances of a positive interaction taking place are much slimmer in companies that have high levels of employee turnover and a lack of institutional experience.

Building employee support

With that in mind, how should companies go about building the employee experiences they need to ensure they have the full support of their workers?

The HR team can leverage cloud technology and implement a comprehensive human resource management system (HRMS) in order to automate most of their mundane manual tasks. Through HRMS, an organisation can also create a self-service model so employees have a single portal for various activities, such as applying for leave and adding medical claims. By creating workflows, the company can ensure that when a request is raised, the appropriate approver is automatically notified. Automating processes will free up the HR team to focus on employee engagement activities.

Rethinking talent acquisition

The rise of remote work as a result of the pandemic saw many people leave big cities for smaller towns and villages. For some, the move was inspired by the prospect of a better quality of life; for others, it was about being closer to family.

Rather than lament the loss of centralised offices in big cities, smart organisations should see this as an opportunity. Instead of fighting over the same pool of talent available in metro cities, they can create opportunities for those living in non-urban centres or rural areas, and invest in skill development.

At Zoho, for instance, we have always believed that talent is everywhere, though opportunities are not. We have traditionally hired people from all backgrounds and opened offices away from city centres in order to tap under-utilised talent in smaller towns and rural areas. We expanded this approach during the pandemic by opening smaller, satellite offices wherever we had enough employees residing, instead of prompting them to come back to the office. We have been hiring locally in these satellite offices. By creating opportunities in the sought-after tech sector in non-urban and rural areas, we help communities retain talent and flourish. This adds a sense of purpose to the job, which also helps in retaining talent.

The right (virtual) environment

Even if an organisation meets its employees’ needs when it comes to working location, it’s still important for it to provide the best possible working environment (even if it’s a virtual one).

One of the most effective ways of doing this is to take a considered approach to the software solutions your employees work with on a daily basis. Rather than a patchwork of software solutions, for example, organisations can benefit from a unified enterprise software suite that meets all their needs—from documentation to meetings, to CRM. In an increasingly hybrid work environment, keeping data and processes on a unified system leads to better visibility and fosters cross-functional collaboration.

A holistic approach

Employers looking to ensure that their businesses do not fall prey to The Great Resignation need to have an understanding of the concerns Gen Z and millennial employees have with respect to the workplace and their career paths. They should be deliberate in creating a flexible working experience where the employee can thrive in a globally competitive environment.

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Sabi Hires Four Advisers to Bolster Growth

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By Adedapo Adesanya

Sabi, Africa’s leading provider of commerce infrastructure for the distribution of goods and services, has appointed four new advisory group members whose experience and networks will support its mission to resource and grow small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) in the informal sector.

Those hired by the organisation are Mr Vidit Aatrey, founder/CEO of Meesho; Mr Ian Black, Managing Director of Shopify; Mrs Sapna Goyal, Corporate Development Director of Udaan; and Mr Bame Pule, founder of Africa Lighthouse Capital.

Mr Aatrey, one of the leading Indian entrepreneurs of his generation, is an alumnus of IIT-Delhi and embarked on the journey of creating Meesho back in 2015 together with his college batchmate and friend, Mr Sanjeev Barnwal, with an aim to build an e-commerce start-up for small businesses at a time when everyone told them that e-commerce was saturated.

Seven years later, they have today built India’s largest social commerce platform at Meesho, which has already empowered 2 million+ entrepreneurs, mostly women, and is on its way to creating more.

Through its platform, it enables entrepreneurs to start an online business with zero investment and provides them with the resources, tools, logistics and payment capabilities to run their business. Prior to Meesho, Mr Aatrey worked with ITC and Inmobi.

Mr Black, who heads Shopify Canada, has managed the business and go-to-market strategy for Shopify Retail in Toronto by overseeing sales, solutions, partnerships, and operations, working alongside marketing and R&D leadership.

Prior to joining Shopify, he was head of UberEATS’ American and Canadian divisions. He was also a management consultant with Bain & Company in Toronto and New York where he advised companies and private equity funds on strategy and growth.

Mrs Goyal, on her part, has an investing experience in early and growth-stage internet start-ups in India. Prior to Udaan, she worked with Goldman Sachs Investment Partners VC & Growth Equity Fund and was responsible for investments in the Indian internet space.

Mrs Goyal also has investing experience in Indian Public Markets as part of a hedge fund at Goldman Sachs. She is passionate about the power of digital transformation on the Indian economy and how it is a great leveller. She is an active angel investor.

Mr Pule founded Africa Lighthouse Capital, an independent private equity firm in 2012 to invest in and nurture businesses into African champions.

The firm has a particular focus on helping investee companies adopt global best practices regardless of sector, attain benchmarks equivalent to those of global peers, and expand into multiple key African markets. Prior to founding Africa Lighthouse Capital, Mr Pule worked at Actis Capital, ShoreView Capital, Goldman Sachs & Credit Suisse in New York and Salomon Brothers/Citigroup in Los Angeles.

Commenting on the appointments, Mrs Anu Adasolum, co-founder/CEO of Sabi: said “Our goal has always been to build and establish a robust team of experts – from our leadership team right down to our agent network – that lives and breathes our core values and mission to transform the B2B commerce industry in Africa.

“We’re extremely pleased to announce that the four members are talented and strategic business leaders whose broad experience will further strengthen our commitment to enable financial inclusion within the B2B community in Africa’s growing informal economy while providing world-class solutions for our merchants. I look forward to working closely with the team to drive forward the next phase of growth.”

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