Technology is fast growing in Africa and so is tech talent. The continent is experiencing transformative impact as a result of technology. From rural Ghana where low income earners are able to buy insurance policies through their mobile phones to the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, where residents are able to send and receive money through their mobile phones, technology has become the order of the day in the continent.
There are various factors that contribute to the growth, and here we look at 10 reasons why Africa is a source of top tech talent.
The Need to Create Solutions to Existing Problems and Challenges.
Necessity is the mother of innovation, and this old adage is true to Africa’s growth in tech talent. Most innovations in the continent stem from the extreme need that exists to find immediate sustainable solutions for critical problems the continent has been facing. Every day, there is a new technology being launched in the various regions of the continent as part of a solution to an existing problem or challenge facing the community. Young innovators are popping up with various ideas such as mobile applications to improve lives while contributing towards economic development and compensating for the lack of infrastructure. For instance, lack of electricity is a major concern in many parts of the continent. In Tanzania, Mobisol, a local social enterprise is providing an off-the-grid solar home system that provides electricity to rural and low income earners in Tanzania. The system comes with an affordable payment plan, which the beneficiaries pay via mobile phones. The power provided by the system can light LED lights, charge mobile phones, radios, and a variety of household and consumer appliances while their larger systems can power small businesses. The Mobisol entrepreneurs saw a problem facing the people of rural Tanzania and gave them a solution which in turn has impacted the growth rate and economic status of the beneficiaries.
The Rising Number of Tech Incubators and Hubs.
The continent has witnessed a steady growth in the number of tech incubators and hubs in the recent years. Today, we have over 100 technological hubs spread across the continent, harboring thousands of innovative minds crafting new technological applications, platforms and ideas that are impactful to the continent. The tech hubs include MEST in Ghana, ActivSpaces in Cameroon, iHub and Nailab in Kenya, Co-Creation Hub in Nigeria, BongoHive in Zambia, IceAddis in Ethiopia, among others. These hubs are stimulating the rise of digitally-savvy young people who are every bit as talented and hungry as workers in any other place.
Ever-Growing Mobile Phone and Internet Penetration.
Africa is the fastest region when it comes to mobile growth and internet penetration, and with this comes creative innovations. In 2000, the entire continent had less than 25 million mobile phones. Fast forward a few years later to 2013 when the number had increased immensely and there were 67 million smartphone users; 16%of that was online. Today, it is estimated that over 67% of the population has a mobile phone and 27% have a device that can access the internet. This means that we have literally put a mini computer in the hands of over 27% of the total population in the continent, and this spurs the use of technology as well as creates opportunities for the ever-growing need of new tech.
Furthermore, a 2013 report by McKinsey & Company, a worldwide management consulting firm, projected that by 2025, Internet penetration will reach 50%; that’s 600 million Internet users using 360 million smartphones. This provides opportunities for employers who can easily access workers wherever there is an Internet connection.
Africa’s Demography – Growing Population Of The Youth.
“From creating startups to igniting revolutions, young people have been toppling old structures and processes that govern our world. Just imagine what solutions might be found if the young people are given the space and encouragement to participate and lead.” –Kofi Annan.
Africa has a competitive advantage as the world’s youngest region, a trend that is expected to become even more pronounced over the coming decades. Today, 60% of the population in the continent is under the age of 35. By 2040, half of the world’s young people will live in Africa. What does this mean to the tech world? This demographic group is, by far, the most tech savvy world ever, and this means that the next generation of digital workforce will definitely come from the continent. Young Africans have also been at the forefront of change and development, not only in the continent but also across the globe.
Abundance of Proficient and Qualified IT Professionals.
Africa boosts highly skilled IT professionals in surplus with the numbers rising as thousands of students graduate from various top notch universities and colleges in the continent. The number of qualified IT professionals is always increasing in the continent, creating an ever ready pool of tech experts whenever needed.
Funding To African Tech Companies Has Been On The Rise.
The availability and increase in tech startups funding in the continent is a boost towards encouraging many young people to venture into the tech world and making Africa a source of top tech talent. According to a recent report by Disrupt Africa, it indicates that in 2016, African tech startups raised funding in excess of US$129 million, with the number of startups securing funding up by 17% as compared to the previous year. The report dubbed African Tech Startups Funding Report 2016, further shows that there has been substantial growth in the number of startups to raise funding. An example of this is the Savannah Fund, a seed capital fund, making investments of between US$25,000-US$500,000, in early stage high growth web and mobile technology startups in sub-Saharan Africa. Such funding has a ripple effect as it encourages many young Africans to venture into the technology sector.
Growing Number of Unique Opportunities for Fellowships and Mentorship.
The increasing number of fellowships and mentorship programs to young tech enthusiasts amplifies the continent with top tech talent. Most of fellowships and mentorship programs are designed to shape and mold young tech-savvy Africans into elite technology experts. Some of the programs provide the beneficiaries an opportunity to be trained by world-class professionals and tech gurus. Furthermore, others link the fellowships leading global tech companies for internships and sometimes job opportunities. Examples of these tech fellowships and mentorship programs include Andela, African Technology Foundation, and many others operating within different countries in the continent.
Increased Number of Supporting Organizations Such as Grassroots, Government-Funded, and Non-Governmental Organizations.
A myriad of organizations and government initiatives have been created to spur tech startup activity. Governments and non-governmental organizations are now realizing the potential that lies within technology in the continent. Governments are building infrastructures that support technology and embracing more use of it in service delivery and governance, while development partners, such as World Bank, are putting in funding and policies that support growth in the technology sector. Governments and development partners play a huge role for any sector to succeed in the continent, and this new development is reason enough to make players in the tech industry happy. This also fosters growth in tech talent as there is good will from the government and non-governmental organizations. Some of the examples include: The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) have partnered with the European Commission to launch Boost Africa, a US$158 million initiative to support 1,500 startups and SME’s across Africa. The World Bank, too, has a package that will foster tech talent in the continent. They recently announced that they will launch a series of acceleration programs across Africa aimed at helping tech startups commercialize and scale innovative digital products. It has already launched a program in Senegal and is planning to have a partnership in Kenya that will see support-growth-oriented entrepreneurs in East Africa.
A Myriad of Networking Events and Tech Conferences Across the Continent.
A common African saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This is the spirit behind the numerous networking events and conferences for players in the tech industry across the continent all year round. These opportunities offer interactive sessions, collaborative opportunities, as well as business opportunities to the participants. This is one of the key boosters that has made Africa a leading resource when in it comes to top tech talent. Some of these events include AfricaCom, which brings together tech enthusiasts and senior decision-makers from the technology sector from all over the continent for a conference in Johannesburg.
A Track Record of Producing Successful Startups.
Whenever a list of successful tech startups in the world is mentioned, you never miss two or three that have their roots in Africa. The continent prides itself in having numerous successful tech startups that have endured the test of time. Today, some have been in operation for more than 10 years, providing solutions to some of our most pressing socio-economic and communications problems. They also thrive by having a pan-African scope in service delivery. These startups include Ushahidi founded in Kenya, Instabug in Egypt, RoamSmart in Tunisia, Skyrove in South Africa, Njorku in Cameroon, Bonglive in Tanzania, among many others.