Typically, when new companies start their operations in Nigeria, they open offices in commercial cities like Lagos, Abuja, or PortHarcourt. 

But in recent years, there’s been a drive for companies to open up offices in other neighbouring states.

A year ago when uLesson, an Edtech startup opened its office in Nigeria, it set up its operational base in Jos, a less popular city in the northern part of Nigeria.

This move was praised by many as it was seen as a positive indication that other states are suitable bases for companies. Nigeria has 36 states, why do many companies open offices in only 4 or 5 cities?

At the beginning of this year, uLesson’s CEO Sim Shagaya said the decision to base uLesson in Jos was the most counterintuitive and smartest decision he had taken. 

He elaborated that the trigger behind this decision was seeing the opportunity to pay high wages in a low-cost location that was traffic and stress-free.

Shagaya, who is also the founder of Konga and E-motion, stated that employee satisfaction was higher than for any company he had founded.

But on the last day in November, Shagaya hinted that uLesson would be moving its team of over 80 people from Jos city in Plateau state to Abuja, the Nigeria capital city.

So why is ULesson leaving Jos?

Lagos has for a long time been criticized for being congested, making it difficult to move goods or people around. Also, the recent unfavourable regulations by the state government haven’t helped matters. 

Last year when east-African motorcycle-hailing startup SafeBoda announced its expansion to Nigeria, it planned to launch in Lagos but ended up switching to Ibadan, a neighbouring city which, although larger than Lagos in size, has less than half the population of Lagos.

Amidst all of this, some consider Lagos safer than other states. In a recent Building from Ground Up Episode with LifeBank’s CEO, Temie Giwa-Tubosun, she stated that her biggest challenge was security in states outside Lagos.

A major concern people have with states in Northern Nigeria and Jos is that there’s a history of security issues with numerous riots in the past. 

Shagaya acknowledged this and stated that these issues were in the past as there hadn’t been any significant security issues in recent times. 

When TechCabal reached out to uLesson to get its comments, uLesson explained that the move was in order to access better regional flight connections and attract talents.

“A key part of our plans for next year is to develop educational services for Grades 1-6 and to take those services Pan-African. Our ability to develop for and distribute to this African market means we have to move to a city with better regional flight connections and to which we can easier attract the talent we need.”

This move questions whether the trend of companies moving to non-commercial cities is sustainable. Commercial cities aren’t perfect but they’re still easier to move through and attract better talents. 

Companies are, after all, living organisms constantly seeking the best place to thrive.

Daniel Adeyemi | Author