Tech Nation, a UK non-profit supporting the tech industry for ten years, is shutting down due to a lack of funding. The UK government previously backed the organization. But now, it has redirected funding to Barclays Bank’s program. The shutdown is set for March 31, 2023, and the organization is open to potential buyers for its assets.
Since this announcement, many tech workers, including Nigerians, have been worried about the development.
Tech Nation has done awesome for the UK’s tech ecosystem. This is such sad news. pic.twitter.com/006Ko3J3BK
— Demotivational Speaker (@OdunEweniyi) January 31, 2023
February needs to be better.
Layoffs, Tech nation shutting down, volatile economic conditions, etc in January is too grim to bear.
— Funmi (@funmilawole) January 31, 2023
For many, the Tech Nation Visa Program, which allows tech talent and families to work in the UK, has been a primary concern.
According to Tech Nation’s official statement, the Visa Program will continue for now. However, its future depends on acquisition. And for now, it looks unlikely that Barclays would absorb the Visa Program.
This news will affect tech talent seeking flexible work options in the UK. Tech Nation’s Visa alumni include people from 94 countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt. Nigeria has significantly contributed to the number of participants, along with India and Russia.
Tech Nation claims to have a strong return on investment, with over a third of UK tech unicorns and decacorns coming from its programs and creating over 90% of tech jobs in the UK. The shutdown of Tech Nation puts the UK in a negative light for innovation, especially after recent cuts to the R&D tax credit scheme for startups. It will also affect the UK’s ability to attract foreign tech talent.
But notably, Tech Nation’s impact on Nigerians is not as steep as many think. Since its inception, Tech Nation has endorsed less than 4000 visas worldwide. So, while it’s true that Tech Nation has helped many tech workers migrate to the UK, it only accounts for a small fraction. For perspective, Nigeria alone accounted for 65,929 migrants via sponsored study visas to the UK last year.
So, in reality, it’s not Nigerians, or any other beneficiary country, that will feel the biggest pinch from Tech Nation’s demise. The United Kingdom —the host country— has the most to lose.
The shutdown of Tech Nation is intensifying an already dark spotlight on the UK’s tech ecosystem. The move comes at a time when the U.K. government has been paying lip service to the idea of the country being a “Science and Technology Superpower.” But confidence in the UK’s tech ecosystem is declining, especially after the government cut back the R&D tax credit scheme for startups. In a survey by industry body Coadec, of more than 250 U.K. founders, the majority said the cuts made the U.K. significantly less attractive. Now, tech founders and investors are eyeing the $369 billion offered under the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act for technology startups. So, for the UK, Tech Nation’s shutdown is just another straw on the camel’s back. Will it be the last? Time will tell. But as for Nigerians, they will keep finding ways to migrate as long as the “Japa Syndrome” persists.