Nigerian developers vs clients: The typical horror stories, possible solutions

January 31, 2020 · 5 min read
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Over time many clients in the tech ecosystem have been faced with the scarcity of software developers and tech talents, for obvious reasons. There’s the issue of remuneration for developers and also the problem of finding talents to deliver quality work in time.

Suggested Read: The multifaceted problem of Africa’s tech talent scarcity

On the other hand, some developers claim to have to deal with clients not providing the details needed to work on a project. And in the last few days, some developers and clients have taken to the streets of Twitter to discuss their experiences.

We gathered the experiences of Nigerian developers and clients working with each other.

Clients’ experiences: A case of money is the root of all evil

In sharing their experiences, some clients stated that on commencing projects they paid upfront but halfway through some developers take flight without offering refunds.

“2014, I had one dev. The deal was that he will build the product. I will market it. We share proceeds. He built the product. I started marketing. One day, he just stopped picking my calls.  Couldn’t reach him for years. He went away with codes and passwords and everything. Product died.”

“One told me once that if he doesn’t meet a deadline that there is nothing I’ll do. I’ll just vex and enter my room and sleep. This is after collecting part payment and agreeing to the deadline before now.”

“Signed a deal with some northern developers that were supposed to work on making a platform for me. I didn’t want to give them the contract without seeing proof of things they’ve done before. They showed me a couple of platforms they claimed they had worked on independently, they were quite convincing and we moved on.

“The first problem we started facing after payment over the next few weeks was correspondence, they’d go off the radar and claim they needed to go off in order to finish the work. Then, later on, I started seeing funny things on the system they were working on as I have a background in IT. Apparently, these guys were learning on the job watching tutorials for things that [are] related to my requirements then practising on the contract. We ended up wasting 700k.”

“I wanted to create a platform for a monthly payment of rent and purchase of the property. The amount was for million-plus equity, made the first instalment [of] 300k.  After about 3months, I didn’t get anything done and I asked for a refund; I got less than 80k back. Then I met another developer, he presented himself as an expert developer with a company and track records; signed an SLA and all.

“Made another payment of 350k and four months later, I had a caricature of what the concept was about; use of force and threatening, nothing after a wasted effort. No solution, no startup and I’ve shelved the idea. I’m very detailed in my documents and I explain in writing the processes involved when one clicks a button with paint illustrations; still don’t know how they all could have gotten it wrong.”

What do Nigerian developers have to say?

“Well, I have actually worked for some Nigerian firms and I bet they don’t know what they want, they always blame developers. A few of them with technical knowledge understand how to simplify and structure plan for devs. Hire a Project Manager. Some clients don’t know what they want, pay a consultant ‘No’ they rather pack the job and give to a developer and anticipate him to do magic. Simplify the task for some devs and watch them achieve the task with ease.”

“I had to learn the hard way! Now I don’t work without specifications.. of which changes incur extra charges! I once worked on a product, which normally would take me a month, for nine months because the client kept waking with new functions daily! Explained to him implementation wasn’t my issue but having to rework the schema daily and effects on other parts of the codes! Till date, Oga thinks I couldn’t handle it until he saw a complex system I implemented myself in 7weeks.”

“Dear developers, I think it’s time we start taking documentation seriously. Draw up contracts and scope documents clearly detailing what you will do for the client and stating that once it’s signed, you have the right to refuse to implement any changes to the scope the client may bring after. That way, if after telling you that they want Twitter, they come halfway into your development process and tell you they actually want Facebook, they have to agree on new terms and pay for the extra work. Don’t let desperation push you to poorly defined projects.”

Other observations

“There are terrible developers in Nigeria but there are also amazing developers that would stand on par (& exceed) with any developer in any part of the world. I’ve experienced both. You will do well to appreciate the art of development that way expectations are aligned.”

“Hire good developers, pay good money, don’t waste people’s time, be very sure of what you’re trying to achieve, don’t introduce alien features in the middle of the project, pay good money, hire good developers.”

“The Nigerian developer problem isn’t a developer problem; it’s a Nigerian problem. We are a nation of (mostly) people without a value system. So a bad country produces bad developers. And also produces dumb people who don’t know how to articulate what they want from developers.”

“It seems to me that there is an emerging cycle which once played out in the services industry. Developers need to learn excellent service delivery for optimum results and ensuring going concern. Else, they lose opportunities for valuable referrals.”

“Hire the right Nigerian developers next time. There are countless Nigerian developers working for Engineering teams all over the world. So please, instead of painting Nigerian developers bad, fix your developers selection process for whatever projects you need to work on.”

A possible solution

Having gathered opinions of both Nigerian developers and clients, it appears poor communication is one of the major problems. Though some challenges are inevitable, others are avoidable.

For clients, prior to contracting the help of developers, it’s recommended that there’s a proper contract stating how the work should be done. One way to ease the developer’s workload is by being clear about the requirements and expectations. This could help developers deliver projects on time.

Additionally, it is also pertinent to provide developers with good remuneration for their work.

On the other hand, developers are also expected to fulfil their ends of the deals. Communication is key, and it will be unethical to disappear on the client or get defensive and try to make excuses for missing an agreed deadline.

However, these solutions are not cast in stone, and it’s up to the developer and client to figure out what works for them.

Omolara Oseni

Omolara Oseni


Woman in Tech | I write about social media and internet culture | Photography enthusiast.

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