October 3, 2023


Sapiens Digital

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.

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