Until August 2023, *Bayo Samuel worked as a product designer at a Lagos-based edtech startup. However, a failure to raise fresh funding forced the company to lay off several employees to reduce operational costs. Samuel was one of the affected workers. “It felt like my world crashed,” the 26-year-old, who had worked at the company for two years, told TechCabal.

After five months of job hunting, while living on his savings, he was hired as an analyst at an investment bank, which paid less than his previous role, where he earned ₦500,000. “The money isn’t great, so I have had to adjust my lifestyle. But it is better than being jobless.”

Samuel is one of the many Nigeria’s tech workers who are now pursuing careers in traditional industries, representing a reverse in the generational shift of young graduates who entered the tech industry due to promises of mouthwatering salaries and flexible working conditions. A major appeal of the tech industry is its low barrier to entry, unlike traditional industries that often require a level of educational qualification and skill set. 

“Traditional industries offer a level of stability and structure. People want a growth plan and structured opportunities. This trend is very benefit-driven,” Chibuzo Ihentuge-Eric, a tech recruiter and human resource specialist, told TechCabal.

Nigeria’s tech industry has witnessed impressive growth in the past decade with the rise of homegrown successful startups like Paystack and Flutterwave and billions of dollars in venture capital funding. But a global tech downturn has forced investors to write fewer checks. Nigerian startups raised $398.2 million in 2023, a 66% decline compared to the previous year.

With less funding due to tough macroeconomic conditions, startups had no option but to cut costs to stay afloat. This sometimes, unfortunately, includes laying off staff. In February, Spleet, a property tech startup that raised $2.6 million in 2022 from investors, laid off an undisclosed number of employees following inflationary pressure on its business. Nigeria’s headline inflation rose to 31.70% in the same month. 

Tech layoffs mean Nigeria’s tech workers are flooding an already constrained job market for a fresh start. The country’s unemployment rate is projected to cross 40% this year as the country battles an economic recession. 

“People have no option; they have to take what they see. I think people now prioritise job security over job satisfaction,” said Emmanuel Faith, a people leader and talent manager.

Unlike Samuel, *Sulaimon Kehinde wasn’t laid off from his role as a senior product manager at an early-stage fintech. He resigned from the company in July 2023, citing its toxic work culture and the fear of losing his job. “I was really after job security. I wanted to switch to a more established company with processes in place,” he told TechCabal.

He had a side gig, working as a contract product manager for a retail marketplace app but later resigned to focus on his job search. In November 2023, he secured a role as a product portfolio officer at a capital markets infrastructure firm, which tripled his pay. He earned around ₦300,000 a month at his former workplace.

“The work culture is way better. The company prioritises employee well-being and offers perks such as gym subscriptions, health benefits, quarterly bonuses, and travel allowances. You’d typically get these at growth-stage startups,” Kehinde said.

The switch in career transcends beyond startups but also tech-enabled companies.

*Remi Adewunmi worked as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) administrator at a traditional bank for eight years. Though he had a “rich and eventful experience,” he left to become a partner at a real estate venture where he oversees IT services and implementation. According to him, the new role offered better remuneration and working hours. 

“My experience from tech prepared me for this. The pay in my new role is much better. I earn at least 40% more than my previous annual salary,” he said.

Faith, the talent manager, believes any traditional industry that hires tech professionals is lucky: “One thing tech workers bring to the table is the fast pace of execution. This might also be a challenge, considering the nature of traditional industries. They [tech talent] may have challenges with dealing with bureaucracy and the ranks of decision-making.”

Nigerian startups lack established growth plans, which traditional industries often have in place, according to Ihentuge-Eric. To retain talent, the tech industry should work on comprehensive career development plans for employees. “When it’s known that the industry is big on developing talent, then people might consider staying,” she said.

*Names changed to protect the source’s identity.

Ganiu Oloruntade Reporter, TechCabal

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