Oluwatobi Akinpelu is Nigeria’s Tech Ambassador Who is Raising the Bar on Developer Talent to Help His Country Thrive
Oluwatobi (Tobi) Akinpelu is passionate about pushing technologies to the limits and working with a team of talented engineers to design, build, and release iOS and Android mobile applications. He’s built robust and engaging apps, taking into consideration performance, privacy, security, and how best to consume RESTful web services from the backend. At 23 years old, Tobi has been contributing his skills to build Nigeria’s first digital agriculture platform called Farmcrowdy and has developed other apps that cut time and costs for the business community. His exceptional skills in the technical space make him particularly good at his work with Andela, a network of Africa’s top software engineers who are ready for hire. Tobi has spent the better part of the last three years mentoring and working as a State Lead Facilitator and Regional Program Assistant with Andela to promote skills development in a community of tech learners and workers to advance Africa in the tech space. Tobi has a BA in Pasture and Range Management (Second Class, Upper) from the University of Agriculture in Abeokuta and is a member of the Udemy Alumni (concentration blockchain/cryptocurrency). During his student years, Tobi was a community convener/ambassador for Google and Mozilla Firefox.
Editor’s Note: Tobi was brought to our attention by Frontrunners League member, Jane Thomason, who was featured in The Introducer edition on Women Leaders in Blockchain)
Q & A with Tobi:
Q: What is the mission of Andela and what brought you to the organization?
A: Andela’s goal is to provide an ever-growing population of aspiring technologists with the resources and environments they need to become world-class problem solvers. The Andela Learning Community (ALC) is a network of people technologists and tech enthusiasts across Africa dedicated to learning how to use technology to solve humanity’s problems. The ALC facilitates your learning through the aid of guided mentorship from super-awesome learning community ambassadors.
I believe in building vibrant communities, by assisting others to gain knowledge and skills needed to jumpstart and vitalize their career. ALC happens to be a great place to channel this passion because of the wide reach and structure put in place to help learners. I started in my final year in school as an Android facilitator, 2 years after I became the Lead facilitator for my state, a year after that, I now happen to manage a part of the SouthWest as a volunteer Program Assistant helping to achieve the continental goal of impacting 30,000 learners in Africa.
Q: You’ve been working at a company that produced an app for farmers called Farmcrowdy. Can you explain how the app works and what you’ve done to improve the app? Have you created any other products?
A: Farmcrowdy is Nigeria’s First Digital Agriculture Platform that empowers rural farmers by providing them with improved seeds, farm inputs, training on modern farming techniques, and provides a market for the sale of their farm produce. This gives the farmers the capacity to farm more acres and, by extension, leads to increased food production and security in Africa. With the mobile app, you can identify a farm of your choice and sponsor as many units as you can afford by paying the required amount. You get notification updates of your farm progress and activities, and at the end of the farm cycle, you get back the amount you sponsored plus the returns after harvest % of the farm. Being part of the tech team, we built a new Farmcrowdy platform which includes the mobile app. I handled the mobile (Android and iOS) which is designed to improve performance and user experience, including new farm-shop experience, dashboard layout, more signup options and more.
Because I believe I still have up-tapped potentials, after work hours, I conduct research on different case studies and work on projects that could solve problems. Some of my works are ScanThings, Gingered, and MavenStickers.
I created ScanThings because often, workplaces have an inventory list of items which are meant to be cataloged for reference purposes like smart devices, utensils, electronics, tools, etc. They resort to manually typing or writing down important properties of the item like serial number, name, description, etc. Data input error often occur due to human mistakes, a high opportunity cost of staff time is being forgone, and this traditional process is generally stressful and painstaking. Why can’t it be automated at zero cost? ScanThings simplifies the way items information is recorded using a phone camera and powered by Artificial Intelligence. You enter the item’s information you want to record; scan its barcode, QR code or plaintext; and get your data in spreadsheet format. It’s free, light, and works offline. With very intuitive and simple user experience, ScanThings improves productivity time of businesses who document their inventory by at least 900%. What’s done in 60 minutes can now be achieved in just 6, while also providing more accurate data. Available on the Playstore:https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=pro.androidmaven.data_scan
For Gingered: In a world where many people know lots of things happening today, but little or nothing about the past or the possibilities of the future, Gingered provides a way where you could learn about the past, know more about ideas shaping the world of today, and can also document their own life stories. The first step to inspiring others with your story is to document them. Available on both Play store and iOS store.
MavenStickers brings a new way to express, engage, and chat happily on WhatsApp. It has lots of high-quality stickers to bring your chats alive. It is 100% free to use with no ads, and provide fast integration (less than 10 secs) to integrate with Whatsapp. It is worthy to note, that MavenStickers is Nigeria’s 1st WhatsApp Sticker app, built with real-life conversations in mind. You get to choose from 9 categories of sticker packs like. Available on only the Play store.
Q: Why is it critical to mentor and coach youth into tech skills in Nigeria?
A: I got into tech self-taught with no direct mentor or assistance. It took me more time to understand and gain my ground. I would move with faster speed of learning if I had someone to guide me in programming, show me the importance of networking with people, and use of social media. I’m favored to have scaled through the process on my own, but there are thousands of other people who aren’t so lucky in Nigeria. Majority starts get stuck in their first code errors and quit – many who didn’t quit at that stage quit because of lack of enthusiasm. If mentorship is provided, it will help in guiding through the right resources to learn from and help in maintaining enthusiasm and managing loss of it – because there will be times when you’ll feel like quitting.
Q: What is your philosophy around developing youth as global citizens?
A: I believe there is a difference between someone being important and being relevant. It’s possible to be important locally, yet useless internationally. As youths, we should strive for both importance and global relevance. We should be flexible enough to create solutions in a local context, but with a global mindset. We youths, should keep learning and expand our horizon.
Q: What more is needed to be done in your country to help youth attain marketable skills and even develop as entrepreneurs?
A: There are 3 things we need to be improved – a medium to access resources, capital, and global exposure.
Cost to access to internet facilities is still high; very low population have resources like a laptop, smartphones, etc that meets standards. Provision of this medium will immensely help. Capital access in the form of scholarships, funding, and low-interest loans will be an enabling to do more. The most important of these is global exposure. An adage says you can also think as far as you can see. Sponsored international conferences, meetings, networking, and adventures will help broadens the minds of our youths. An example of exposure is the understanding and use of the 5G network. We know of 3G, and only less than 30% of Nigerian states have access to 4G which is very expensive to purchase. When will we get know about 5G? I strongly believe if these 3 things could be improved on and we implement this in any African country including Nigeria, youths will rise in marketable skills and even develop as entrepreneurs at a faster rate.
Q: Where do you feel you are headed with your work in the coming few years?
A: I believe in creativity and progress. The way I express this is by creating solutions that are useful, beautiful, and simple to use. That’s why I create mobile apps for both Android and iOS platforms with a combined experience of over 6 years in tech. I’m open for collaborations to creating local and global impact. I believe one of my works, either currently published or not yet ideated will be a game-changer in the way we do things, solving problems and increasing productivity – I see myself leading this cause.
Tobi’s Networking Interests:
- A social impact designer and storyteller
- NGO with grant funds
- High ticket salesperson
- An experienced leader who is willing to take up the business sides of a tech product