The #EndSARS Push Saw Nigerian Startups Put Money Where Mouth Is

By  |  October 26, 2020

In the past two weeks, the #EndSARS campaign that started out as a few aggrieved tweets that fuelled a trending hashtag on Twitter has gone on to become a global movement.

From the streets of social media, the #EndSARS spilled out onto the streets of the real world, sparking days of peaceful demonstrations in various Nigerian cities and many other countries of the world — from the U.K. to France and from South Africa to Germany.

Although the peaceful demonstrations against police brutality in Nigeria, unfortunately, yielded more brutality that led to the loss of lives and property at the hands of both government-backed security agents and street thugs, the #EndSARS movement saw Africa’s most populous country unite for the first time in a long time towards a common goal.

And Nigeria’s tech startup scene was at the heart of this movement which ultimately forced the hand of the Nigerian government to “dissolve” the loathed unit of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and announce yet-to-be-seen police reforms and intentions to bring errant officers to book.

Over the course of the demonstrations that lasted for about two weeks, many startups in Nigeria rose to the occasion, supporting the protests happening in various Nigerian cities both financially and structurally.

And they had every reason to. Nigeria’s bubbly tech startup scene, which is awash with “young-and-getting-it coders and suave tech entrepreneurs,” has been disproportionately affected by the SARS menace.

Between startups like Flutterwave, Paystack, Andela, and Helium Health, there have been harrowing tales of police brutality and extortion, perpetuated by SARS, in the last few years.

There seems to be no distinction, the horror tales of profiling, harassment, extortion, kidnap, and assault have affected both the most reputable of founders/investors and even upcoming techies in the local tech ecosystem.

Whatever the outcome of the investigations and reformations that are believed to be ongoing, the contributions of the Nigerian startup scene have been immense.

One of the first-movers was the Nigerian fintech startup co-founded by Iyin Aboyeji and Olugbenga Agboola known as Flutterwave. Both co-founders have first-hand accounts of police brutality, corruption, and extortion targeted at themselves and other young techies under their watch.

Flutterwave set up an #EndSARS Fund and raised NGN 2 Mn (USD 5.2 K) in-house before opening it up to the public.

At the last update (October 13) over NGN 25 Mn (USD 65.7 K) had been raised via its donation link. The #EndSARS Fund was disbursed to the Feminist Coalition, a group championing equality for women in Nigerian society.

The fund helped to provide medical, legal, security, and welfare aid for protesters during the demonstrations. Even at this time when protests have ceased, the fund is still being disbursed to assist victims.

Also, Bundle Africa, a Nigerian crypto startup whose founder, Yele Bademosi, has been affected by the menace, set out to raise funds globally in support of the #EndSARS protests.

Funds collected through the Bundle Africa wallets were also disbursed to the Feminist Coalition. Bundle Africa raised NGN 1 Mn (USD 2.6 K) internally and Bademosi made an additional donation of NGN 500 K (USD 1.3 K).

Other startups like PiggyVest, Cowrywise, Rise, Bamboo, Paystack, Buycoins Africa, Fliqpay, Softcom, Eden, Quidax, and Voyance, among others, made significant monetary donations to the #EndSARS campaign, ranging from NGN 100 K (USD 263.00) to NGN 1 Mn (USD 2.6 K).

Ghanaian startups like Bitsika Africa and Swipe also weighed in. A lot of donations also came in as cryptocurrency, especially after it was rumoured that the Nigerian government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was strong-arming Flutterwave into dropping the cause.

Non-monetary contributions also helped the cause. For example, SafeBoda Nigeria offered free rides to protesters, LifeBank made emergency blood donations, and Hotels.ng offered free rooms to protesters who may have been caught out by the hastily-announced curfews that were ordered after violent thugs hijacked the protests.

Although calls to put an end to the SARS unit have been on and off since 2017, the Nigerian tech community first united to confront the menace after a sour September 2019 episode involving a young software developer at Buffer Media.

That incident sparked the coming to life of the #StopRobbingUs campaign against police brutality meted out on young Nigerians in tech. This campaign was crowdfunded by the local tech industry. And based on the evidence of the recent #EndSARS effort, Nigeria’s startup scene seems even more resolved to end the menace.

Featured Image Courtesy: DailyPostNG

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