Nigerian Techies, Y U No Build Your Own Data Analytics Platforms?

Sooooooo. Today’s guest on TechCabal Radio is…Nic Haralambous

I’ve been talking about Nic since yesterday, and it just occurred to me that he has some pretty good advice for the Nigerian tech ecosystem that I’ve been sitting on for some months now and been too lazy to upload.

Nic was at the last edition of Mobile Web West Africa to speak about using data to grow your grow your business, and he employed many personal anecdotes from his experience working at Motribe and on his hipster sock sales startup, NicSocks. At some point, he started talking about how data is not oil, but air — you can’t breathe without it.

“I’m the guy who needs data to run a business”, he said. “Because data equals revenue”.

Without saying as much, he seemed to be gobsmacked that anyone in their right minds would do mobile/internet business in Nigeria, given the nigh impenetrable levels of opacity. There is absolutely no actionable data to be found. Everyone so far is mostly going with their gut. Often with disastrous consequences, as you can imagine.

A big topic for conversation…today is how do you get data and analytics in Nigeria? It seems like you guys are struggling with it. There aren’t tools that are helping you. You aren’t getting the right information. My very simple answer to you is build it…start tracking it (the data) for yourselves. Don’t wait for Google Analytics, that’s not innovative, that’s lazy entrepreneurship…if you’re missing something, build it, that’s the industry you’re in. Build stuff. If you don’t have the developers, find the developers…

You might have heard me swearing under my breath at the point where he first said “build it” in the recording (in case you missed it, the soundcloud embed is top of the page). I was affected like that because truer words about the subject were never said.  And yes, we kind of deserved that collective swipe at Nigerian geek cred.

Nic’s comment was informed by some of the conversation that had transpired in the morning session on mobile advertising when the question of where to find real, hard Nigerian digital analytics numbers and info had come up at some point. In that same session, I asked Wildfusion’s Abasiama and TwinPine’s Elo Umeh if their companies would be amenable to supporting local initiatives that promote aggregation and access to digital intelligence for the local ecosystem, seeing as they are digital (read mobile) marketing and advertising stakeholders respectively.

Right now, the only things that pass for local data insights exist on Alexa (that we all swear by, even if it stinks, bless them) and Statcounter. Places where you’ll never get the drill down. ISPs and browser companies have data they won’t share. People ask me questions like what are the top selling handsets in Nigeria like I’m supposed to know the answer. If there was a place where they could get the answers to those questions, I’d gladly point them in that direction. But there just isn’t.

However, what I didn’t say when I put the question to Abas and Elo, and while Nic was making the comment about building such an analytics platform is that one has already been built. It is called Open Apps and is the subject of another post that I believe I will be pushing out tomorrow soon.


  • zuworks says:

    Very good point. Nigeria is a unique market and building the data sets specific to Nigerian businesses will be key to success. The challenges i see in building usable data sets in a Nigerian context is that it has to be approached on a long term basis. It turns out that long term has never been our strong point in Naija. It’s about lets do it now and get the results asap. I work with data everyday as a business analyst and researcher, and the best data sets that present usable data points for business decision-making gets better with time.

    I cant generalise, however i believe if we learn that its okay to have the right data than huge amounts of crappy unusable data even if it takes a long time, then we could build the type of insightful companies that run on data or as NIC said that runs on air.

  • Ugo Etudo says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with Nic. The solution is not to build something new because very mature, proven tools exist in data analytics. So we need not reinvent the wheel (and of course do it poorly because nobody is creating anything more robust than, say, SAS or SPSS).
    What we do need to develop, however, is an ontology, or rather several ontologies that represent data points of interest and their corresponding sources, with each ontology defined within the context of its application (say, banking, real estate). This way we can map what is out there for a given use in a way that is easy to understand and easy to present to stakeholders. Without doing that, i.e., identifying what is out there and bringing interested parties on board, one cannot prove to decision makers that analytics can produce competitive advantage.
    Once this mapping is done one can source the data and, using existing tools, perform sample analytics to reveal new insights about Nigerian markets.

    I really admire the intriguing work you guys are doing and urge you to keep it up! I am a doctoral student in the United States working toward a PhD in business concentrating on information systems. I would love to offer insight and expertise were you to require it! This is my passion. Feel free to shoot me an email:

    • The solution is not to build something new because very mature, proven tools exist in data analytics.

      The operative question here, in my opinion, is do these proven tools capture Nigerian data? African data? and Quantcast are proven and mature tools, and if you could convince them that data that is relevant to Nigeria/Africa is worth capturing/mining right now, I’d be the first to shake your hand. But if the people who’ve built these proven tools are too busy miinding their own business and cannot be bothered with ours, shouldn’t we be thinking about some way to do what we have to do too?

      It’s all about capturing local data, not the tools for the tools’ sake.

  • David Okwii says:

    Google public data explorer is attempting to do something cool from data got from the world bank.

    Of course, it only has a small subset of the data that the digital natives like us would be interested in, but it’s a good step.

    Google has also attempted to do some research in the industry, but this as just a one-off stunt in Countries such as Nigeria, Uganda where am from, Ghana, kenya, Senegal.

    Some are suggesting “open data” initiatives to bootstrap this whole process where organizations share their data which wholesomely can be something useful to the parties.

    The challenge ofcourse is most of data in Africa is largely offline. Bringing it online requires astronomical ventures with massive funding that private companies simply don’t have.

  • Tunji Olowookere says:

    Hello Ugo,

    Thank you for the valid points raised in your comments above. In the light of developments in the e-commerce landscape, would you still stand by your comment… ” I do suspect that it is not large enough to warrant significant investment in web analytics”?

    Considering the massive VC funds coming into the Nigeria market. I think it is time to invest in such.
    By the way, I want to believe banks are armed with data that helps in new business developments. A good example of companies compiling data for their use in the country includes Renaissance Capital among others.

    I am not a techie but passionate about understanding the role of bug data in business consulting and process re-engineering.

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