On Feb. 10, Bukola Akinfaderin took her last flight to Nigeria as a resident of New Jersey. Founder and CEO of New Jersey-based Jandus Technology L.L.C., she arrived in Lagos as one of the city’s newest residents, armed with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Wesleyan University, a master’s in information systems from New Jersey Institute of Technology, several years’ experience in mobile and Web technology, a mobile music media application that she created and the ready-willing-and-able spirit of an entrepreneur. At 31, she had returned to the land of her birth after living in the United States for just shy of 20 years. “I saw a lot of opportunity for success in Nigeria,” she said. She spoke with The Network Journal hours before her flight and days after her arrival in Lagos.
Akinfaderin is part of a swelling tide of educated and skilled Africans and people of African descent flowing into Africa from Europe and North America. African countries are encouraging this “brain gain,” some more aggressively than others. Nigeria, for example, set aside $5 million for Diaspora activities and offers a stipend of $2,500 to be paid to any Nigerian expert based abroad who decides to return home.
Akinfaderin planned her return methodically. Beginning in 2009, she started going to Nigeria two to three times a year, using the visits to establish a network of people who could help in her transition. During that time, she put all of her financial obligations in the U.S. in order, secured a residence in Lagos, opened a bank account there and thoroughly researched the industry sector in which she would operate. “The mobile subscription rate in Nigeria has overtaken South Africa to become the continent’s largest mobile market, with now more than ninety million subscribers and a market penetration at only around sixty percent as of early 2012. This has created a huge opportunity for those who have the skill to develop on mobile platforms,” Akinfaderin said. She shipped her furniture and her car one week before her Feb. 10 flight.
With eyes set on software exports, Nigeria is building four software incubation centers to groom local software entrepreneurs to tap into the global applications development market. The government also plans to launch an IT innovation venture capital fund. Software development is expanding at dizzying speeds throughout Africa. The greatest number of entries to the World Bank’s global “Apps for Development” competition last year came from Africa, led by Uganda and followed by Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Niger and Rwanda. Software developers were required to create apps using World Bank development data. Africa’s submissions, which ranged from Facebook applications to apps on an iPhone, also utilized Google Data and geovisualization. In Kenya, Nokia Corp. is establishing a regional research and development center in Nairobi, the capital, where local software developers will produce apps for the African market. Kenya recently introduced a world-class certification program for local software developers. At the Uganda headquarters of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa, work is under way to develop price-monitoring software that will produce monthly updates of staple food prices for the region. The goal is to increase competition and resilience to price volatility.
Akinfaderin developed her Jandus Radio mobile app in November 2010, after she discovered Nigerian Internet Radio and officially launched it the following April. “I was intrigued by the possibility of Nigerian residents in the Diasporas keeping up to date with Nigerian music and live news while away from home. The only thing missing was portability and a user-friendly directory of the popular stations. I decided to take Internet radio from the PC to the mobile phone.” The response was surprising. “People who live in other areas of Nigeria were using the app to tune into radio stations that were unavailable through the radio frequency reach provided by traditional radios. Jandus Radio trended on Twitter for two days in September 2011.”
Akinfaderin is currently marketing the app through Facebook and Twitter. As of February this year, Jandus Radio has more than 10,000 subscribers and more than 200,000 plays with an
average of 1.5 listening hours per user. Akinfaderin recently negotiated a partnership with Loopy Music and award-winning Nigerian rapper MI Abaga to be the spokesperson for Jandus Radio. “We are on target to launch a variety of viral video and marketing campaigns throughout 2012. I also negotiated a deal with Samsung West Africa to market the app utilizing their apps portal and a variety of marketing campaigns.” She’s already planning other apps. “I have been approached to design several apps to service several industries including real estate, banking, telecom and the entertainment industry.”
Yes, it was a fine time for Bukola Akinfaderin to go home.