African tech can only win on quality not patriotism

The recent poor economic conditions in Africa, coupled with the funding winter from VCs are threatening the very survival of African startups. This has also exacerbated the already adverse impact of currency devaluation which has severely constrained the prospects for economic development for many African countries.

All these issues have created an avalanche of woes hitting African startups hard. Founders are now faced with situations where they are paying significantly more to use the same (foreign) services, even when the price remains unchanged. On the flip side, these service providers have also jacked up their prices because VC monies have dried up – the average minimum price of accessing these services is now about $15 – $20 per user per month.

This vicious web of complexities have led to a growing consensus that it’s time for Africans to start using local software and services. Recently, concerned founders like myself, Babatunde Akin Moses, Ebun Okubanjo and Victor Asemota have been publicly advocating for this.

This begs the question that if these services have been around for some time, why is it taking an economic and funding crisis to get us talking about making the switch and what’s holding us back even now? 

Stay with me, I’ll walk you through it.

African founders might be ready but African tech isn’t  

Making the switch to African tech alternatives isn’t a problem in itself and the availability of these services is also a non-issue. However, the biggest problem with this is that African resources are usually lacking in quality. 

I’ll admit that this applies to my startup, Lendsqr, as well. We should already be doing well and competing on a global scale but we struggle with quality, stability and elegance. 

People from different places across the globe have built things that work well. We’ve got Grammarly which came out of Ukraine; Bolt came from Estonia; Skype from Luxembourg, and Duolingo was founded by Luis von Ahn, who is from Guatemala.

I’m not asserting that success is determined by geography, but we can’t deny that there’s a correlation based on the existing order of things. However, despite challenges within the African tech space, notable successes like OnaFriq and Paystack demonstrate Africa’s potential for delivering innovative solutions that scale globally. Disclosure: I’m Chairman of the board  at Paystack but that’s as objective an assessment as any. 

Demystifying challenges within the African tech space

I’ve identified five key areas that African startups must address effectively for us to advance in this crucial cause in favor of homegrown solutions. 


Stability is critical for any platform to be widely successful. Unfortunately, many African platforms aren’t as stable as our foreign counterparts’ platforms and suffer frequent downtimes, which indicates that there’s still much work to be done.

The quickest way out is to suggest that perhaps African engineers aren’t good enough, but the truth is that when many of these engineers leave to take up jobs in foreign companies, they end up doing such great things. The real issue here is that, more often than not, we give mediocrity a free pass and we’re always ready with excuses for why we’re not doing well. 


Elegance presents itself in platforms that are well thought out. Elegant platforms perform well and execute functions gracefully – this can’t be said for many African solutions. Many of our platforms are clunky and slow, don’t work well on mobile and just generally ensure such a horrible user experience. 

An annoying but common instance is when platforms return error messages that don’t make sense (you do A and get an error message that implies B happened) or you’re told to contact support for issues that a more thoughtful approach to user experience could’ve easily taken care of.

This was a problem at Lendsqr and shame wouldn’t let me rest. We worked with the good guys at Assurdly, a quality assurance and product delivery shop to fix this late 2023. Things have improved but we are just starting; I’m not stopping until we are the best at what we do.

Speed of delivery

People want fast service at all times. And when things go wrong, they want quick resolution. With most companies abroad, a reported issue receives swift attention – not every time, but most times. 

People want you to attend to their issues promptly and ensure that the problem isn’t just fixed in the part of the platform you reported, but every other place that might present friction. 

Customer support

African customer service is often poor and lacking in empathy. You send an email to report an issue and not only are you made to wait eons for a response, but when an agent finally gets back to you, they tell you rubbish that gets you nowhere. 

At Lendsqr, I’ve seen instances where customers send an email to find out more about a feature on our platform and we reply poorly or don’t give them the correct information. Of course, we’re addressing this problem but these are the realities that turn people off.


Majority of African software is poorly documented and this poses a significant barrier for those who wish to access these solutions. Poor documentation often means that short of reading the minds of the founder or product manager, people can’t understand how to use the software optimally. 

API services are the worst; the documentation provided by legacy players across the continent (I won’t mention names) are usually some old PDFs that haven’t been updated in years with current APIs behaving totally different from what is documented. New players have documentation rife with errors. 

The average time to first API call, a global metrics for API provider, is in weeks and months for most African tech providers rather than minutes. At Lendsqr, this is also poor, but we are working with Assurdly again to lower this to less than 30 minutes.

Complexity doesn’t scale. Simplify it.  

With all the issues highlighted so far, it’s evident that the effort it takes for a single African fintech/startup/SaaS provider to onboard and service customers is infinitely greater, although that shouldn’t be the case. 

We use a lot of software created abroad that’s simple; we sign up, use without hassle and move on. But in Africa, and sometimes even in Lendsqr, you can’t start using some services until someone comes to hold your hand and walks you through it. 

My team and I often argue about these issues internally and they stress that Lendsqr is complex. This is inconsequential, in my opinion. AWS is also complex but when a customer gets in, they find enough documentation that guides them on what needs to be done. 

That’s the hack. Simplicity. 

No matter how robust your offerings are, if you can’t simplify access to your tech, you won’t get very far. That’s food for thought for us over at Lendsqr as well.

A patriotic software is a good software

I’m intentionally putting my business out here because I strongly believe that discussing these issues openly will help us all to do better. Pushing people to patronize African tech alternatives solely for the sake of patriotism is a weak argument. 

Only when our services are good can we sell patriotic usage. Producing in Africa already means we can offer competitive prices and if we are able to effectively pair this with excellent services, there’s no stopping us. We could even do what China did to the American producers and ship output that’s cheaper and better.

Let’s set a minimum benchmark for excellence and pride ourselves in stability, quality, elegance, sane customer service, good documentation and speed. When we do this, we can finally enjoy the blessing that comes with our devalued currencies.

These issues of poor quality and mediocrity with our software output also spill into other things we do as Africans, but we’ll discuss that another time. 

For now, let’s get to work and crack this or die trying.

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Author: Adedeji Olowe

Adedeji / a bunch of bananas ate a monkey /

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