• Sunday, May 26, 2024
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Africa losing opportunities over varsities’ failures to align curriculum with global best practice – Ajulo


Nelson Ajulo is the founder/CEO of Zarttech, a social-driven software and technology consultancy company. In this interview, he advises Nigerian and African universities to begin the process of aligning their curriculums to fit into international marketplace best practices and to enable skills developed in-country to tap global opportunities. He believes that failure to do this has denied Africans a lot of opportunities in the past. He also shares an insight into what the technology firm is doing in bridging the knowledge gap in software development, data analysis, and AI among others. AMAKA ANAGOR-EWUZIE brings the excerpts:

How would you describe the Nigerian software and technology industry?

In terms of software development in Nigeria, there are very amazing developers and I have had the opportunity to work with amazing minds from different parts of Nigeria and other African countries.

Nigeria has creative entrepreneurs when it comes to software development. As you know technology enables business. We build technology for people, we don’t build humans for technology. This is where Nigerians become very interested because they are creative entrepreneurs who not only think about the logic and practicality of the codes but also the business benefit.

Nigerians have a different kind of intelligence, which sadly we are not yet leveraging in the right way. If managers of the economy help youths leverage their intelligence by channelling it in the right kind of direction, it would minimize cybercrimes and produce innovative solutions.

Read also: Can Technology Truly Make a Difference in Our Lives and the Planet?

What is the company Zarttech all about?

Zarttech as a company is special because it is driven by a vision to pull human and material resources together to create the next big African tech giant that provokes and challenges innovations and also competes globally.

We started with an international ambition because we recognised the potential in Nigeria and indeed Africa. We realised that an average Nigerian is a true entrepreneur and the country is blessed with millions of entrepreneurs. An average individual in Nigeria could easily grow a huge organisation if the infrastructure and financial support were there, but unfortunately, this kind of ease of doing business infrastructure that would have helped these entrepreneurial mindsets to operate effectively is not readily available.

The vision of Zarttech is to build individuals with great expertise in Nigeria and Africa. We will help to showcase their innovations to the rest of the world which will help put Africa in a different light.

We want to ensure that we project Africa as a continent with innovative people and there is no better time than now especially with the advent of artificial intelligence in the face of technology. We want to put Nigeria and Africa in a position to now compete, innovate and change the whole global landscape for good.

What are those initiatives undertaken by Zarttech in terms of job creation and skills development for the youths?

Over the years, Zarttech trained youths in tech skills who now use those skills to work with global companies as trainers. We then use the same trainers to train the next generation of youths.

In Nigeria, the company has a talent academy where young Nigerians are trained in tech skills that are fundamental to their economic growth and global economy.

I have noticed that the inability of Nigerian and African universities to align their curricula to fit into what is obtainable in the international marketplace is denying the continent a lot in the aspects of developing skills.

Africa must develop the right talents so that they can be able to compete in the international marketplace.

The development of the right talents would also help Nigeria increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) because if the country produces something that is internationally competitive, other countries would want to buy from her and this would help the naira.

Software development, data analysis or artificial intelligence are vital skills Nigeria needs now. These are areas the educational institutions need to invest more into rather than teach courses that the global economy does not even need anymore.

Zarttech realised that the economy has moved beyond the analogue to a more digitalised economy, that is what we now showcase in our academy. We dedicate 30 percent of this academy allocation to training women with full scholarships. By so doing, we empower more women to participate in this innovative programme and also bridge the gender gap. On average, Zarttech has over 350 employees and is open to training at least 200 youths annually through the foundation.

In the next five years, we plan to create 5,000 jobs in Nigeria and train 2,500 youths. We also want to make sure that the top 15 percent of these youths get employment after the training.

From your knowledge in this industry, how has Zarttech solution been an enabler to help businesses achieve their purpose?

When the company started about four years ago, we aimed to connect talents in Nigeria and Africa with global work opportunities, because we saw that in years to come, there would be a huge productive population gap in developed economies.

In Nigeria, almost about 60 percent of the population is under 25 years whereas, in the European Union, the majority of the population is ageing. So, when you fast-forward in the next 20 to 30 years, a huge population would have been wiped out.

The presence of a youthful population is what positioned Nigeria and indeed Africa in a very good light. Still, this youthful population needs to be well-positioned and equipped with the right kind of skills to meet the global economy.

This is what Zarttech is working towards to ensure that youths who are inclined to technology are trained. Those with analytical skills can easily be trained in software development, cyber-security, data analysis and AI. Through our training, these youths can grow up to become senior developers or senior engineers. In addition, those with very hard skills can easily tap into international opportunities as well.

How does Zarttech prioritise diversity and inclusion in its workforce, and how does this contribute to its overall impact on the economy?

Diversity and inclusion are a big topic for us at Zarttech because that is the whole essence of what guides our operations. It is why we want to bring Africa to the forefront when it comes to technology.

Diversity and inclusion are the backbone of what we do because more than ever before, it is quite important to have very diverse organisations with different views, thoughts and cultures. When organisations have such diverse employees, they bring different ways of thinking to the table. Research has shown that organisations that are quite diverse and inclusive flourish.

One of the secrets of our success is the fact that we actually have people from different backgrounds and bringing all these different knowledge together actually helps us to create this catalyst that propels us forward.

What is the future of technology and entrepreneurship, and how do you envision your company’s role in shaping this field that you mentioned earlier?

From our success, the company has dedicated a fund where we can invest in local scale up or startups in Nigeria. Part of our plans is to see ways to invest between 50,000 to half a million Euros into companies that are software-heavy in Nigeria and Africa. Zarttech can also support them with the technology building.

We have lots of very sophisticated software solutions that we can use to help these companies go to market quicker and with our international networking connections; we can help such companies to expand beyond the local market in Nigeria.

We are hoping that more people in Nigeria can learn about these opportunities. This will enable them to share in our knowledge and have more pathways in terms of international exposure and rapid growth.

As Zarttech celebrates its 4th anniversary, what message would you like to convey to stakeholders, partners, and the wider community about the company’s journey and vision for the future?

I think it is time for Africa to be showcased in a different light. I envisioned that when Nigeria or Africa is mentioned, it should be about the innovations it has created or involved in and not just the negative aspects.

We want to ensure that when Nigeria or Africa is being mentioned, it should be looked at as a place of enablement where there are opportunities; as a continent where global boundaries have been reached, and where innovations are being seen.

Where do you see your operation in Nigeria in the next six years? How bright or otherwise is it?

We have been operating globally since the onset. In the past, we have funded several EU companies, but now our focus is to extend the same funding opportunities to Nigeria and African companies.

In the next couple of years, Zarttech would like to focus on funding software development in Nigeria especially for governmental organisations because the continent is still backward in terms of technology.

We are in a position to bring this international expertise to help the local IT market in Nigeria and Africa to also get better. Some of our product like Koko is targeted towards Nigeria. Zarttech is ready through its funding to scale up any startups in Nigeria that are ready to partner with it to help such start-ups expand to the international market.

At the moment, we have allocated about half a billion Euros to funding startups. We plan to fund startups to the tune of between 50,000 Euros to 500,000 Euros in the next 10 years. We are concentrating on companies that are heavy on software development.