Over the weekend, when I needed to fix my generator pull cord, YouTube came to the rescue. Elated, I proceeded to share my experience on Twitter. What started as appreciation for the gold mine that is YouTube soon grew into commentary on the African tech ecosystem.
Me: YouTube is a global treasure! My generator cord cut & I decided to replace it myself. Went on YouTube, found this 8 year-old video. I was done in under 10 minutes. All the comments are of people all over the world thanking him for saving them money.
Adewale Yusuf (TalentQL CEO): My brother fixed my TV with (help from) a YouTube video.
Me: Isn’t it instructive that most, if not all, of the people who post these tutorial videos are not Africans?
Victor ‘Big Chief’ Asemota (seriously, what does he do?): Exactly! This is also to the heart of our tech. Tech starts from and improves with sharing knowledge and not fundraise announcements. If you haven’t read Tim O’Reilly’s book “WTF”, please do so. It shows how SV got built upon open source free giving. It is a culture we must learn.
Me: Big Chief, this issue of not sharing knowledge isn’t from a lack of trying. I still spoke about this last week on Twitter Spaces. Many of the biggest startup founders who could potentially share are insulated by comms and PR bureaucracy. Even when there’s a public failure, and the media reaches out for a balanced story, they give you the Buhari treatment; ignore you and then give the scoop to foreign media.
Victor Asemota: I think it is cultural. Your nature should be “community first” before posturing. We prioritise the perception to the community and customers over the contributions to community growth. For most people, everything is a competition. They keep comparing things they don’t need to. Owning up when things go wrong brings more trust and assistance than trying to pretend. Once people truly understand the simple power of communities in shaping tech, they will all ditch costly PR.
Me: It’s definitely cultural. Even Jason Njoku (iROKOtv CEO), who used to share a lot as an IJGB, eventually got ‘indoctrinated’. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Elon Musk ditched his PR team and replaced them with his Twitter account.
Victor Asemota: It is sad that we are prioritising foreign perception over the local community because it will come back to haunt us. The customers are not on TechCrunch and the funders won’t keep paying for what the market doesn’t resonate with. I want to believe that things will transform.
As a follow-up to the conversation, Victor did a thread on how all of these tie in with crude innovators and detrimental press coverage. This is where my headline’s promise of ‘Mushin Toys’ delivers so you should totally read the thread.
This feels like a good time to recall Victor (Ekwealor, no Asemota)’s article on fostering the DIY culture in Nigeria.