There are two things one cannot ignore walking off a plane in Lagos. The first of two things present is a thick, dank, sweater like heat. The second is the pungent aroma of sweat and leather. For the newcomer it calls from memory every stereotype one can conjure and in many small ways validates them. As a returnee walking down the airplane steps and taking your first breath, Lagos is a bittersweet welcome to a place unlike any other.
Curiosity was etched across the faces of the diverse and newly arrived GitHub team of four. Some floated with unbridled wonder, and some sunk with the weight of worry. The question had to be asked, what can Lieke, the Community Manager; Hauwa, the Policy Lead; Nick, an Engineer Manager; and William also an Engineer; do to make an impact in this environment? Travelling from the airport through the bustling city center to the island suburbs highlighted the battle between potential and reality. Where a bridge separates masses of huddled tin roof houses teaming with activity from the mansions, mini villas, and high rises. Where business minds built from necessity are separated from lights, internet, and access because of failing infrastructure. What could GitHub expect to achieve?
Ingressive was the company, and long-term partner, tasked with answering those questions.
The days scheduled for the GitHub travelers purposely mirrored the reality of Lagos, Nigeria, population 20 million. It was hectic, erratic, and full of energy. Whether it was the face to face roundtable sessions in the office of CTOs and CEOs, packed conference halls full of eager minds, the chaotic yet opulent social scene, or our group mentally unpacking the day during road trips; perspectives were shattered during these moments of social interaction.
The roundtables, meetings, and masterclass sessions during the tour and summit were probably the most expected part of the week’s events. Masterclasses during High Growth Africa Summit allowed GitHub to highlight their product line’s advantages, innovations, and the company’s willingness to support the community. They also witnessed first-hand, what the future leaders of tech based businesses have in the pipeline. Fintech companies like Hotels.ng, Paga, Flutterwave, Paystack, and others were able to show the closest resemblance to business as usual in America. C suite management members openly communicated the truth of operating and scaling a tech based company in a developing nation. GitHub was able to have dialogue to discover exactly how they fit in multiple business modules and sectors from those who were successful in doing so.
Three and a half hours from Lagos, on roads meant for mountain goats and helicopters; landed the team in Ibadan. Walking into the GitHub/Ingressive/GDG Developer Meet Up there was like stepping into a portal. Over eight hundred developers were enthralled and taking notes. The stage was divided in two, with two university style lectures going on simultaneously. Once the crowd discovered the GitHub team that traveled all the way to Ibadan, it was pandemonium. The GitHub team were rock stars! The team gave a speech and the Q&A session seemed to command every ounce of attention the building possessed. GitHub members were exposed to hundreds of developers, investors, CEO/Founders from all parts of the tech ecosystem. The post event thirst for group pics and selfies evoked visions of a Beyoncé concert. This electricity of excitement followed the team to every hangout and event.
These young hungry professional developers wanted vital interaction just as much as a photo op. During the GitHub Ecosystem Hangout, the Workstation Developers Meetup, and the High Growth Africa Summit sessions; the young tech community had questions AND expectations. They were able to express the opportunities for GitHub to grow within the tech community and communicate the obstacles they face. Through these meetups, GitHub was able to see their platform through the eyes of a developer in a developing nation.
In Lagos and beyond, the social scene can often be an extension of the office. During barbeques on private beaches, duos and trios ducked away into sandy corners shaking hands. Poolside cocktails on rooftops drifted into conversations about the status quo by those on opposing sides of the war that is business. Entertainment artists known for packing concerts were in quiet rooms reflecting on what will happen when the sun sets on fame. Extravagant mansions with lion rugs and stuffed zebras provided the backdrop to a melting pot of the rich, the hustlers, and those along for the ride. Knowingly or not GitHub’s representatives were able to network with those with the resources and influence to dictate the path forward in the biggest market on the continent. The GitHub team was able to witness the subtle nuances of culture and business in Nigeria.
The GitHub team was as diverse as they come and representative of the new normal in tech companies. To the local tech ecosystem, GitHub has committed itself to gaining on the ground knowledge of the landscape in “The Dark Continent.” Ingressive was committed to showing GitHub the real Nigeria and a sample of the African tech experience. After seeing both the potential and obstacles, GitHub has a gained a new perspective and now have team members with in depth knowledge about their counterparts in developing nations.
Article originally published on Medium by Sean Burrowes, Ingressive COO