Africa tech firms strive in search of talent

April 22, 2015

Multinational technology companies in Africa are facing difficulties in finding qualified employees as existing talent in the country does not “fit” closely enough with their rather unique corporate cultures to catch up with the rapid growth in their business.The “exponential growth” of the information technology industry in Africa meant that recruiting and maintaining talent had become tougher for tech companies.“This significant exponential growth does not run in parallel with an increasing talent pool in the market,” according to an executive of German company that operates in several African countries who said finding talent was the top issue the company faced in Africa.However, I hold a different view about the tough search for talent and believe its not because Africans lacked skills.Skills have never been the problem because African talents are some of the best in the world that I’ve come across.In my thinking, the issue is in finding people who would seamlessly fit into the unorthodox culture tech companies tended to foster.Tech company’s culture was characterized by a flat organizational structure that made it essential for workers to possess the flexibility to work collaboratively in small teams.

Such fluid work structure, marked by horizontal hierarchies and work flexibility, are trademarks of many tech companies and that is different from what African countries are used to.So first, tech companies look for intelligent people and then look for those who can collaborate and show creativity as well.The next thing is adherence to business ethics, something that African companies took for granted, was essential and required workers to adapt to this “full ethics culture” in addition to meeting company targets.This adaptation was especially tough for many fresh African graduates, new to working for multinational companies, whom tech companies always hire.The recruiting is an issue and is the same as retaining talent which is also a challenge given that talent poaching had become a daily occurrence in the industry, especially as more tech companies entered the continent considered to be the next big growth frontier.Maintaining a pool of talent is really tough and I can say that with high level of experience in the continent and many Africans with IT skills went abroad.

I have also noted that creating initiatives that promote the well-being of the employee was key in retaining talent. I know of three multinational companies that regularly provide breakfast for employees and even organized office-wide indoor sports competitions for everyone. Tech companies in Africa have also also dispelled the notion that they only searched for IT-able employees, pointing out that non-technical roles, including sales, marketing and business development, made up around half of most tech firm’s positions. Job description-wise, the ratio of technical to non-technical job description is 40:60, meaning that 60 percent of those working with multi nationals operating in Africa are in non-technical jobs according to a study carried out tow years ago.Me thinks tech companies should prioritize the hiring of local talent, and adapt parts of the organizational culture to features within the local culture as well.Foreign firms should believe more in leveraging local expertise and talent.I also think Africans must change their perceptions of themselves as well, and start to see themselves as capable in the technology world.Changing perceptions is very critical because sometimes, perception becomes reality.

Contador Harrison