The word “#japa” has been one of the top 10 trends on social media for the last two months, and it is not hard to tell why. Since the start of the summer, the Japa wave has been taking some of the best talents in almost every industry. It is almost safe to say that the tech industry is the worst hit by this wave.
Tech CEO and Investor, Osaretin Victor Asemota made a tweet on the impact japa has had on tech, especially tech within Nigerian banks. “Check on Nigerian banks. They are not smiling. Japa is hitting them badly where it hurts. In technology departments…”
But this tweet was merely putting it nicely. Abubakar Suleiman, chief executive officer of Sterling Bank Plc, told reporters at the end of a meeting of bank CEOs meeting; “So many of our very experienced talents especially in the area of software engineering are either leaving the industry or leaving the country”. He referred to it as a “great resignation.”
Just last month, one of the tier-one banks had its mobile application on a downtime for about 48 hours, with a line of complaints and call-outs online. Disgruntled customers filled the banking halls with complaints of pending transfers, incomplete transactions and missing funds. When they could not get the desired result, they took their complaint to social media and let out all the steam. At the peak of the problems with the mobile application, it was revealed that the top techies in the bank, who should have handled the issue, were on the japa train and had left the company.
The above is a summary of what some have termed “the great resignation era and the japa wave” and how this has become the current reality of the Nigerian tech ecosystem. The most critical part of it is that the japa wave is taking the crème of the tech industries to other countries, in search of ‘greener pastures’. Some have to take the education route, while others go through the employment route. Several notable persons have made their comments on the issue, and how it is affecting business operations.
There can be two ways out of the current problem. First would be creating enticing opportunities that can adequately engage the tech talents in Nigeria while giving them a remuneration that can at least come close to the global average pay for their skills. But the question would be, how realistic is this?
The negative impact associated with the term ‘japa’ most likely draws from the meaning of the word ‘japa’ in Yoruba, which suggests running away from a bad situation. Better schools, higher salaries and more fringe benefits abroad may be some of the reasons the migrants consider those countries to be a ‘better deal’ for them. Brain drain comes from the observation that the best brains appear to be in the majority of the migrants. And that is why a second, and possibly, a better solution would be to improve the talent pool.
Yemi Faseun, Chief Talent Officer shared his thoughts on japa and the retention struggle on a LinkedIn post.
In Faseun’s detailed post, he noted this; “Let’s NOT focus our attention on those who are leaving. They left (quiet quitting) a long time ago before their actual resignation.”
According to the business leader, who has three decades multi-sector experience, if Nigeria can be focused on building and contributing talent, there would really be little worries over the migration. After all, those leaving are actually making room for the underemployed and unemployed to step into their shoes.
While this is very true, do organisations want to risk their reputation by hinging their business processes on inexperienced hands, yet to be rigorously vetted and trained to compete globally? We guess not.
This brings us to our second way out. What if we had a system that could own the responsibility of connecting the top 5% talents in the country to top tech employers within the Nigerian market and even outside the Nigerian market? A system positioned to meet the much-needed demand for quality tech skills, talents with great character who are leaders in their own right. A system with working processes in place to train and vett the best tech candidates for every company that needs to scale up. A system that creates balance in the tech ecosystem, replacing tech talents that leave the shores of the country, with an excellent stock of talent.
If this is done, then there would really be nothing to worry about; as there would be a sufficient pool of equally skilled talents, from which to shop their replacements.
This may not be a novel solution. In fact, many people may be thinking down this route. But it will ultimately come down to the “who bells the cat?”. Otherwise, we will remain in this recurrent cycle of companies getting stranded when a highly skilled “techbro” chooses to japa.
Nigerian startups will continue to receive funding from investors to build their startups, but unless this puzzle is resolved, they will struggle to find the talent needed to build it. How can Nigeria ever catch up with the global moves in tech, if every now and then, one person’s migration is throwing a tech startup into confusion?
While we think about this, we must also remember that, beyond skills, the talent of the future should be well-rounded. They must have the required tech skills quite alright, but most importantly they must have the requisite leadership skills and growth mindset companies need to thrive. So, perhaps, as we move on to a new headhunting and recruitment phase, we would look beyond skills and consider character. This is what makes the top 5% of talent in any organization.
Perhaps, when we finally unravel the answer to this, we just might catch up with the global moves in tech and solve the dearth of tech talents in Nigeria.
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