Africa’s Tech Exodus and The War on Talent

The Ecosystem

The African tech ecosystem has been growing at break-neck speed over the past 3 years. In 2021 alone, African startups raised more than $4 billion – more than 2019 and 2020 combined.

Five African companies achieved unicorn status last year (companies with a valuation of over $1 billion), the UK churned out 110 unicorns and Europe introduced 80 new unicorns to the world at the European Tech Summit 2021. The global tech ecosystem has grown rapidly and there are no signs of this slowing down – this year more growth is expected. Although there has been much growth globally within tech, it has also created a common problem which cuts across all markets- talent.

The Disconnect

Talent and local companies are disconnected in Africa. My personal experience with financial institutions and startups in Africa corroborates this. Talent is maturing and seeking opportunities in other continents and this could threaten the growth and long-term success of the tech ecosystem in Sub Saharan Africa.  There are 1.5 million software engineer roles unfilled globally; and this number is not inclusive of the number of vacant positions that will result from the vacuum created in the African ecosystem by departing talent. The general consensus on the continent is that working for a local company means receiving little pay (just enough to survive) for working unhealthy hours in subpar conditions despite this not being the case with several African companies.

The Great African Resignation

The Great Resignation is not exclusive to the west, it’s endemic and very prevalent in Africa. As more senior developers successfully transition into remote work with foreign companies, it poses the question to African companies: ‘how do you intend to retain top talent?’ ‘Brain Drain’ means several talented, able and experienced tech individuals are leaving the shores of Africa for greener, professional pastures and better career options- such was the case with a CTO from a known, VC-backed and successful startup. The former CTO relocated to Europe and many followed. With western countries opening up their borders and making visa application processes easier for tech talent due to the global labour shortage, this form of migration doesn’t seem as though it’ll end anytime soon.

Remote work

With remote work taking center stage, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for African companies to compete with their western counterparts with their current employment offerings and ways of working. So, how do we fix this? Give talent viable options.

Solutions

Developments in tech such as the Metaverse and Web3 shows just how valuable tech experience is. Companies are prepared to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars (and pounds) for software engineers, developers and the likes and African talent is seeing this. Ways of workings on the continent need to accommodate the changes happening globally within tech. Pain points such as low salaries, career regression and stringent working conditions need to be addressed in order to retain top talent. The global labour market today is a candidate’s market. Clear career progression programmes, creating talent pipelines and better remunerations are a few of the ways African companies can show tech talent that they see their worth.

Providing equity and an authentic means of ownership are also ways companies can curb the feelings of under appreciation in talent. Offering remote working options allows talent to be more flexible in how they work and may lead to increased productivity. Companies such as eWorker work in partnership with companies on the continent and internationally to create programmes that help train talent to international standards and retain them.

With the aim of creating better management practices, working cultures- remote and traditional ways of working- and adding value to a company and talent, eWorker is committed to changing the working narrative on the African continent which could ultimately lead to a ‘Brain Drain’ reversal. Some of our African clientele have already started making changes towards a ‘remote first’ approach to work and offer foreign-currency compensations in a bid to keep and entice stellar talent.

Pipeline Creation Benefits

According to an article published by The Brookings Institute in October 2019, business growth and job creation are critical to creating demand for talent. In the US for example Accenture found that 72% of large companies (most likely multinationals) and 57% of SMEs offered relevant training to entry-level employees. “Human capital” is integral to economic development- an economy that is able to successfully and continuously deploy individuals into its market, will always grow. Educational attainment per William Kerr, ‘is one of the best predictors of economic success for an individual, firm or community’ and this education is not limited to scholastic achievements. Training of any sort helps increase the skills set of individuals and thus contributes towards stimulating an economy that is conducive to growth both for its people and indigenous organisations. If we want to make this relevant to tech in Africa- talent will only stay if an environment that allows them to flourish professionally, is created.

The eWorker Talent Pipeline program

eWorker is decentralising access to global tech opportunities for Black & African software engineers, while building the infrastructure that will democratise the #FutureOfWork across the Continent.

eWorker, in partnership with global technology and educational instituations are building the largest tech education academy and talent pipeline program on the continent. Collaboratively, eWorker and it’s partners will provide talent with accredited and in-demand technology skills that will lead into instant employment for graduates of the program.

eWorker is committed to empowering the African ecosystem with it’s strategic partnerships with local VC funded startups, banks and telcos, which enables the company to transition talent straight into employee pipelines of leading companies.

To learn more, please visit: Pipeline by eWorker

Written by: Ike Okosa, CEO and co founder at eWorker @IkeOkosa on Twitter.

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