Nigeria’s Tech Scene Hopes For Best But Fears Worst After Tainted Elections

By  |  March 3, 2023

It’s safe to say it’s been anything but widespread jubilation since Nigeria’s electoral body announced the national leader of the unpopular ruling party and former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, as the winner of the country’s hotly contested Presidential elections before dawn on Wednesday.

And stakeholders in Nigeria’s burgeoning tech startup landscape are wary of the implications of a divisive mandate that is now being disputed in court as illegitimate. There are also concerns of a potentially fractious leadership foisted on the people against the backdrop of reported incidents of results manipulation, violence and voter suppression, and allegations of foul play and/or negligence by the electoral body.

“I think there'd be positive or negative impact depending on the outcome, acceptability or otherwise of whoever emerges from the process. We already know that investors' confidence is stronger in a rancour-free atmosphere. If the outcome is contested, we will have major investors retreat,” Uche Aniche, Convener of #StartupSouth tells WT.

Promises and consequences

Tinubu, a septuagenarian godfather-type figure in Nigerian politics - with a largely mysterious background, noticeable impairments from ageing, kleptocratic/nepotistic leanings, and alleged ties to the drug trade in the U.S. which he denies but agreed to a settlement to forfeit USD 460 K in the 90s - dotted the landscape in the country's tech hotspot, Lagos, with massive billboards during campaign season, some of which bore the message: “lending a hand to Nigerian startups.”

A campaign billboard of candidate of the All Progressives Congress (now President-Elect) Bola Tinubu and his running mate is displayed in Lagos on February 18, 2023, ahead of the Nigerian presidential election scheduled for February 25, 2023. (Photo by Patrick Meinhardt / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK MEINHARDT/AFP via Getty Images)

Whether that materialises as promised is another matter altogether. History, in any case, suggests that while identifying with Nigeria’s thriving tech scene - on account of its ties to the teeming youth population and cool factor - has become popular among political figures in recent years, it hasn’t necessarily translated into robust government support.

Years of spiralling economic and security crises under the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari - exacerbated by an ongoing cash crisis caused by a botched implementation of banknote reforms - hasn’t helped matters either.

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