The Patriot Institute of Journalism and Arts (PIJA), Lance Magazine is a public-centric independent media organisation dedicated to fighting injustice, fostering social justice and community development through the telling and retelling of the marginalised-oriented stories.
Massive layoffs: Time’s Right For African Tech Companies to Emerge
Anyone following the massive layoffs of major western tech companies would know Africans were not only massively affected; they were as well, terribly and ethnically censored. This brings about cryptic communication of the theme of tribalism, black inequality and hatred of westerners toward Africans.
But to start with, Africans don’t usually invest in Africa, as much as Nigerians don’t invest in Nigeria. And this is why foreign companies find it so easy to marginalise Africans when it comes to the distribution of benefits.
In this year alone, the US-based tech company Twitter layoff about %50 staff, and this coming after Meta sacked 11,000 employees, CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg admitted that he and many other people made a prediction “this would be a permanent acceleration that would continue even after the pandemic ended.” Jack Dorsey, who has since left the helm of affairs at Twitter, admitted to having hired too fast when Twitter laid off 3,700 employees earlier this month. But where does this leave the African offices of these giant tech companies?
TechCabal noted, Earlier this month, the newly assembled 20-person Twitter Africa team celebrated the launch of their office in Ghana, but in less than a week Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, sacked most of them during his mass layoff of 3,700 employees. This raised many questions about the importance of Africa as a market for Big Tech. Many asked why Musk couldn’t have retained the new team since they were small in size and served over one billion people.
The team’s work provided cultural contexts across Africa’s 54 countries and moderated content in some of the most fragile places in the world, including Ethiopia.
Oftentimes, when a big tech company opens an office on the continent, it is usually to represent diversity, establish relationships with the home government, or create non-technical teams. Sadly, non-technical workers in tech are disposable, as can be seen in the recent Twitter layoffs: Musk fired the entire content moderation, curation, safety and truth, and communications teams globally. Unsurprisingly, the layoffs-affected Africa office had no engineering team but curation, content moderation, sales, policy and communications teams. It’s evident then that in a tech world of fewer handouts and diverse offices, the future of Big Tech offices on the continent remains uncertain.
One would think that the presence of an engineering team that worked closely with Twitter’s global engineering team, and India’s status as one of the world’s largest markets, would save Twitter India’s office workers from the sack hammer, but it didn’t. Elon sacked 90% of Twitter India’s 200 staff members. The Indian team, however, got a 2-month severance package, the US team got a 3-month package, while the team in Africa are getting nothing. And this is where Africans are getting censored and marginalised.
Worthy of note, it is not out of the place to say most of the tech companies in Europe were not designed with Africans in mind and this is why Africans are experiencing difficulties in accessing them. For example, Nigerians cannot collect money on Amazon, but can only payout. It is according to Amazon, an unsupported country yet. PayPal has blocked Nigerians, as well while Meta’s children Facebook and Instagram with some of the new features made to make money for content creators, most African countries, including Nigeria were not allowed to enjoy the benefits, according to them, they are among unsupported countries.
Facebook recently integrated stars for content creators to make money with it but disallowed Nigerians to have access to them. Even, with an Instagram feature of earning with a subscription, Nigerians too were disallowed to enjoy the benefits.
However, as much as it can be painful, it is not a sad thing that common men on the street suffer the stereotypical hate of these giant tech companies of the west. It is just about time Nigerians brace up to champion the need for Africans to have their own tech companies. Nigeria has brilliant techies who can do this, but the issue is, as earlier stated, Nigerians don’t invest in Nigeria. Paystack which would have to replicate Woo e-commerce and serve as a substitute for PayPal has also been sold to a European, while Jumia, which would have become the Amazon of Nigeria still crawling to meet up with the standard.
The narrative must be changed. Africans need not to allow Europeans engaged them in brain drain strategies and feed on their intelligence. Africans should start investing their intelligence in their home countries, this way, Africa can be valuable and be great again like in the days of Mansa Musa.
It has often been said economically that only a lazy citizenry depends on the government for growth, it is about time all individuals baptised themselves in deep critical thinking to bring about tech companies and innovations that can represent Africans in the world market.
If you’re looking at its marketability, it is not an issue. Facebook was founded in 2004, many years after Google was founded in the 19s, as the first FaceMesh. Then, it was just a juvenile dream of Mark Zuckerberg who wrote the code all by himself. Nevertheless, the success of Facebook wasn’t stopped by Google’s existence, so also Twitter was founded about two years later after Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp too were among many other social platforms that came and hit stardom.
Africans need to establish our tech companies and make them unique with features that most of these western tech companies do not have. If you think they have all, you joke, there are many things they don’t and this is why Africans need to think outside the box to catch up with those things.