Reformational revolution of the Nigerian software industry towards providing valuable edtech software solutions could improve the quality of education and cut down costs incurred on management —that’s the vision of FlexiSAF, a Nigerian edtech startup building pro-education solutions that automate processes to enhance speed and efficiency.
For Rahama Obadaki, senior marketing and communications officer, the ultimate solution to the chronic challenges of Nigeria and other developing African countries is education with technology playing a critical role.
“The Nigerian education system has been on the brink of collapse for many years as the standard of education continues on a free fall. The world is fast-moving, and technology is driving at a super-fast rate,” said Rahama in an interview with Ridwan Adelaja.
“At FlexiSAF Edusoft Limited, we realised this earlier, and understood the need to adapt technology to salvage the situation if we must record breakthrough as a country alongside leading nations around the world.”
From problem to product to company
Founded in 2008, and incorporated in 2010, FlexiSAF started as a smart school result management product for tertiary institutions after the founder, Faiz Bashir —then an undergraduate— built a software solution to help university lecturers simplify the compilation of results after exams.
“Our founder is an IT nerd. The company took off on his idea. Close to his graduation from the university, he designed a software product to help his lecturers better manage results. You know how frustrating result compilation can be, especially in the case of a large number of students as is the case with most Nigerian universities? Faiz built the result compiler out of his innovative ingenuity.”
Upon graduation from the university, Faiz decided to improve the model. He went ahead to scale the smart result management product, and saw how other institutions could incorporate it, pitching on the success recorded with the use of the product by lecturers in his alma mater.
A graduate of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Faiz bagged a master’s degree in real-time software development from Universiti Teknologi, Malaysia in 2009.
Setting the pace for tech
Returning to Nigeria, the first-class master’s degree engineer devoted his time and resources to scaling his idea into a multi-millionaire edtech company, at a time when tech was rather new in Nigeria —coming almost 5 years before the emergence of the like of Andela, Paystack, Flutterwave etc.
More than a decade after, Faiz continues to leverage his expertise in the software industry from both technical and business perspectives to drive the FlexiSAF vision.
“I am ambitious …in improving the quality of education in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa using technology. Coming from a family that values education, I believe that education is the greatest asset that anyone can have,” an excerpt from Faiz’ bio on LinkedIn reads.
The edtech market
As of 2021, available data from Statista puts number of universities in Nigeria at 170, where 79 are private, 43 are federal universities, and state universities account for the remaining 48.
On the number of students, same data source revealed that for the academic year 2018/2019, Nigerian universities counted 1.8 million undergraduate students and 242 thousand postgraduate students.
Going by the Edtech Market Outlook (2021-2031) published by Future Market Insight, the global edtech market size was estimated to be worth US$ 74.2Bn in 2021 and is forecast to grow at a prolific CAGR of 14.5% during the forecast period between 2021 and 2031, totalling over US$ 288.4Bn by the end of 2031.
Quite discouraging, however, more than 60% of Nigerian schools —primary, basic or tertiary— still depend heavily on manual management processes with these processes resulting in time wastage and fatigue for people involved.
Despite the potential of technology, Nigerian lecturers and teachers are stuck with the tradition of compiling results by hand on pulp sheets. Many universities are yet to automate the process of issuing certificates and transcripts.
From a single result compiler, Faiz Bashir’s team has designed a series of other smart products in what it described as a bid “to reinvent learning.”
Building edtech edifice in silence
With headquarters in Abuja, and base stations in Kano, Kaduna, Adamawa and Lagos, FlexiSAF’s product chest include but not limited to SAFSIMS: a tool that drives students learning experience, enhances parents’ engagement, fee collection, CBT, student management, clinic management for k-12; and SAFRecords: which is the same as SAFSIMS but designed for Tertiary institutions.
Other products include SAFApply: which is an online admissions software that offers a convenient way to process online applications; and SAFcert: a digital solution for issuance and verification of certificates that provides stakeholders convenience, security and revenue.
The startup’s newly launched curriculum-based e-learning platform, Jangu, is an animated video content portal for primary and secondary school students. But how encouraging as the edtech space been, especially in a Nigerian market where there is an obsession for imported ideas and talents?
“The goal has remained constant over the years. And, that’s to re-invent learning. Everyday, we think of ways to improve our products while researching on latest trends to automate more processes in the education sector,” Rahama said.
Further commenting on the products, she revealed that contrary to the belief of many that these products would only be patronized by private institutions, some of the startup’s clients include public schools as 2 Nigerian State Governments have adopted them for the running of their schools.
“Currently, we have a staff strength of about 150 people spread across our 5 offices. Our clients keep growing. We have partnership deals with two states in Nigeria. Today, we service about 10,000 institutions across Africa. And, yes, you probably heard it first, we are expanding to another country,” she added.
Confronting challenges as a business in Nigeria
The impressive traction recorded, since inception, did not come without challenges. Rahama, during the interview, lamented poor internet and power supply bedevilling the country.
“We are heavy power consumers as a tech development company. It’s really crazy to contend with the unpredictable power challenge that is commonplace in Nigeria. Same with internet speed and poor reception. Our clients battle this as product users.”
While most Nigerian edtech startups focus on e-learning offerings such as uLesson, Edukoya, Teesas; FlexiSAF continues to build its edtech empire in silence, focusing on offering services as B2B, B2C or B2B2C —depending on the client and contract.
Not ignoring the impact of the social media community, FlexiSAF — as of September 28, 2022 — has the largest Facebook community as a Nigerian edtech player with a total of 39198 followers, closely followed by Edukoya at 37778 followers and uLesson at 30681 followers.
“In the next 5 years, the mission is to break more boundaries while achieving our objectives, investing more in research and improving our services …because there is lot more to offer the world through technology,” she submitted.