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Support for tech talent a prerequisite for Africa to leverage internet economy

Africa’s tech talent needs more support if the projected sizeable contribution of the internet economy to the continent’s growth is to materialise.

Recently, Google and the IFC predicted the internet economy would contribute up to US$180-billion to Africa’s economy by 2025 and US$712-billion by 2050.

According to the e-Conomy Africa 2020 report an expanding tech talent pool is crucial to growth, along with Africa’s start-up ecosystem and regional harmonisation which is to evolve through a single market African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

It states that Africa’s GDP grew by 4% yearly in the last decade ahead of the EU-28 (1.7%) and Latin America (1.7%). It says a projected population growth of 87% in thirty years and internet users increasing by 11% come 2030, could further strengthen companies in the internet economy which are already outperforming other sectors to achieve the future growth.

Ernesto Spruyt, whose tech recruiting firm Tunga hires African developers, believes that the big challenge is how to ensure that Africa’s talent pool keeps up with demand.

“Inevitably, the rise of the African tech ecosystem will be accompanied by a substantial growth of the talent pool,” said Spruyt, who predicts an increase in competition for talent in Africa in the short term, and a significant pool of software professionals in the long term.

“But this takes time. Education is one thing, but to become a good coder you simply need work experience… to put in the hours. This will require significant investments in education.”

Spruyt is sceptical of the report’s numbers that Africa is home to 690,000 professional developers as at 2019 and 21% of them are women coders benefitting from the growth of the ecosystem for its many opportunities, especially in Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa.

He puts the numbers at between 400,000 and 500.000 developers in all and only 2% being female based on a sample his firm carried out two years ago on Linkedin as he calls for strategic talent investment.

“Right now, there is a missing middle in my view. There are a lot of investments in training people who have no skills to get introduced to the profession. But what is missing is investments in turning juniors into ‘mediors’ and seniors.”

Adeshina Adewumi John of One Kiosk Africa, which provides access to market and finance for small scale businesses in the e-commerce industry, said: “For us to make these numbers become a reality, especially with the seemingly increasing internet penetration, there is a need for favourable policies to drive the 11% internet growth to reality. There is a need for more early stage and mid-stage financing alongside private and public sector partnerships and collaborations along this value chain to strengthen our tech talents who would obviously support the driving foundations. There still remains a huge gap in quality tech talents across the continent when compared to our overall youth population.”

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