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COVID-19 uncertainty grips Nigeria’s tech sector

Nigeria , 24 Mar 2020
Tech firms bracing for impact  preparing as much as possible, but acknowledge uncertainty.
Tech firms bracing for impact preparing as much as possible, but acknowledge uncertainty.

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) tech companies in Nigeria are taking steps ranging from improving hygiene conditions to fully embracing work-from-home approach. Local Fintech giants Paystack and Flutterwave told ITWeb Africa they are doing all they can to ensure as little impact on their operations as possible.

“Our immediate response to the escalation of Coronavirus (COVID-19) is to continue to support our merchants without disruption to our normal operations, while we take precautionary measures to protect members of our team and our community,” said Paystack spokesperson, Stephen Amaza.

He noted that the company’s response to COVID-19 index case in Nigeria was to sensitise its team on recommended safe practices to prevent infection which includes improved hygiene protocols and social distancing.

“We also outfitted different parts of the office with hand sanitisers which all team members are encouraged to use, and which we provide to visitors as they access the building,” said Amaza.

Emmanuel Quartey, who is tasked with directing the company’s growth, does not anticipate any disruption to its services.

“Many members of the Paystack team already work remotely, and our internal tooling and processes are highly optimised for distributed work,” he added.

Flutterwave’s approach is similar to that of its competitor.

Marketing executive Yewande Akomolafe-Kalu said the company has continued to prepare its workforce on business continuity and remote policy procedures. “Last week, we ran a company-wide global remote day pilot before the significant evolution of the virus, and put measures in place from our learnings from the drill to ensure that we are adequately prepared and ready to adapt as the situation evolves.”

Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Ali Pantami said: “with Coronavirus spreading across the globe and more people living in isolation, the digital and information communication sector is providing alternatives for people to stay in touch and institutions to provide the needed basic life-saving services”.

Start-ups, co-working spaces, hubs and other related tech companies in Nigeria have been making public announcements on efforts being undertaken to protect consumers and workers against the effects of COVID-19.

But local operators have been quiet, referring media inquiries to their headquarters.

MTN is the leading market player in Nigeria. In a statement, MTN Group President and CEO Rob Shuter said all indications are that the viral disease will continue to spread across the world and in the Group’s markets – and the company must be prepared.

“As MTN, over this time, our core connectivity services will be even more critical, so the priority for our customers is ensuring network continuity, focusing on the availability of spares and equipment and the upgrading of capacity. We need to ‘keep the connectivity lights on at all costs’,” Shuter said.

The company’s COVID-19 plans include focus on hygiene and quarantine/containment wherever required, full restriction on international travel and also efforts to reduce domestic travel wherever possible.

The Group also announced temperature screening at its office locations and support for people who are ill.

“All CEOs have been encouraged to urge and arrange work from home facilities for their people, but bearing in mind local considerations,” the Group added.

Possible scenarios

The International Data Corporation (IDC) revealed three possible scenarios (optimistic, probabilistic, and pessimistic) for Nigeria’s smartphone market, one of the country’s most active technology market segments, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“IDC currently believes that the probabilistic scenario is the most likely to occur, with both supply- and demand-side concerns alleviating by the second half of 2020. Under this Probabilistic scenario for Nigeria and Ghana combined, IDC expects smartphone shipments to decline 15.4% in quarter-on-quarter in Q1 2020 and 3.9% in Q2 2020.”

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