The scandal that unravelled Nigeria’s tech ecosystem

About Fatu
By Fatu Ogwuche

Top of mind: Happy Sunday!

This week was sobering for Nigeria’s tech ecosystem. First, a startup was exposed for abusive practices against its employees in a scathing exposé.

Plus, Elon Musk’s company is still dealing with racist allegations, and Instagram reintroduced a long lost feature.

3 big things:

  • Bento gets exposed
  • Tesla’s racist allegations
  • Instagram appeases users

Bento Africa faces criticism over workplace abuse

The short: Nigeria’s payroll management startup Bento was publicly humiliated this week for the abusive treatment of its employees.

The 411: Nigeria’s tech ecosystem faced a reckoning this week following TechCabal’s exposé on Bento’s culture. Bento claims to “reimagine work and life balance” – well, they weren’t wrong.

Employees revealed verbal and psychological abuse, fat-shaming, spontaneous dismissals (someone call HR!) and your run-of-the-mill tyranny at the hand of Bento’s CEO.

An ex-sales executive said:

Bento took everything from me—my sense of humanity, sanity, confidence, and trust,” “We worked around the clock. Ebun would send you messages by 2 AM and expect a response asap. No rest. We went to bed every night praying our jobs would still be there when we woke up the next morning.

The captain at the helm of the move fast, break people culture is CEO Ebun Okubanjo, who referred to his employees as “pussies and fuckers” for requiring breaks. He described employees who took week-long vacations as “weak and not needed in the organisation.” Mad. 

Why they stayed: It’s easy to say the employees should have quit the company. However, Nigeria currently has a 33% unemployment rate – up from 32.5% in 2021. So there’s never been a more accurate description of being lodged between a rock and a hard place for Bento’s employees. 

Okubanjo’s response: Before releasing a repentant statement, Okubanjo defiantly stated that Bento’s work culture might not have been for everyone but admits he might have driven people too far. Ex-employees claimed he modelled his leadership style after the late Steve Jobs. Well, Steve Jobs was a demanding boss, but not a despicable one. There is no excuse for Okubanjo’s behaviour.

Final thoughts: Okubanjo is taking some time off while the board investigates employee accusations. Hopefully, he has a come to Jesus moment and seeks professional help for his issues. There’s an extensive conversation about the responsibility of investors in ensuring respect in the workplace as part of the funding clause – but the buck doesn’t stop there. 

Startups need better systems to protect employees and to hold horrible bosses accountable. This is the beginning of an important conversation, but hopefully not its end.

Black employees at Tesla reveal new racist allegations

The short: New allegations have surfaced from more black employees about racist treatment at Tesla’s Fremont factory.

Catch up: I wrote about racist allegations against Tesla in February and the company’s disinterest in pursuing justice for its black employees. This week, a new report revealed black employees were paid less than $20 an hour for 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, and made to do more strenuous work than white employees. 

In a twist reminiscent of the plantation, its alleged black employees were kept without air conditioning in separate parts of the factory and kept out of sight when Master Musk visited. And, if you make a fuss about your experience as a black employee, you could get fired.

The price of racism: In October 2021, a federal jury ruled in favour of an ex-Tesla employee following a racial discrimination lawsuit. The court ordered Tesla to pay $137 million in damages in one of the biggest payouts in a discrimination lawsuit in the US.

However, the payout is a drop in the bucket for Tesla. The company is currently worth over $1 trillion.Final thoughts: This is an excellent time for Elon Musk to step up and show some leadership in ensuring black employees get justice. Racial abuse has been an ongoing culture at Tesla. It’s time for some meaningful action before Al Sharpton comes knocking.

Instagram relaunches chronological feeds

The short: Instagram announced this week that chronological feeds would make a comeback six years after sunsetting that feature. 

What this means: If you ask an IG user to request a new feature, the first thing they ask for is chronological feeds, which allows you to view content when it’s posted instead of what Instagram randomly shows you.

Instagram launched Favourites and Following as part of the new rollout.

How this works: Favourites shows you the latest content from the accounts you choose, and Following shows you the latest post from the people you follow. You can add up to 50 accounts to your Favourites list and make changes at any time. However, people you add to the list can’t tell when you add or remove them from the list.    

Final thoughts: Instagram did right by its users for bringing chrono feeds back. It’s always a great thing when companies listen to their users. Long may it continue.

That’s it for the week. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this week’s issue. Please respond to this email or find me on Twitter @fatuogwuche 🙂 

Ps – do us a solid by sharing the newsletter with your network of tech enthusiasts. Invite them to join the party 🙂

See you next Sunday!

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