Kenya’s ICT sector expanding, skilled workers remain a problem

Posted on February 10, 2015 12:31 am

Firms in Kenya’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector are pouring money into both expansion and research and development, according to a major report. Attracting highly-skilled graduates remains a persistent problem for the industry though.The recently released Information and Communications Technology report about Kenya, which looks at the health of ICT manufacturing, telecommunications, and information technology services was an eye opener. It shows that a third of all firms undertook research and development last year four times the average in other sectors at an average spend of $100,000.Nearly half of companies in the sector invested in expansion, which was almost twice the national average.The ICT sector contributed 2 per cent of the country’s $55.5 billion GDP. One of the sub-sectors, IT services, had achieved export growth of more than 10 per cent per annum since 2005, according to a separate study.One of the biggest challenges facing the sector was the shortage of highly skilled IT professionals.

Around half of computer system design firms report moderate or severe difficulty in recruiting managers and professionals, and more than half report moderate or severe difficulty in recruiting technicians and associated professionals.Kenya is facing a major shortage of IT experts to help small and medium-sized businesses benefit from exciting technological advances according to the report.The Kenyan government’s million-dollar ultra fast broadband scheme would not on its own get more Kenyan firms moving online.Africa’s ninth largest economy also needed hundreds more skilled IT workers who were trained in jobs like web strategy, search marketing and web design.One of the report authors said Kenya doesn’t have the people to enable it to move into the digital economy.Kenyan businesses and the agencies that serve them are crying out for the right people and the right people are not here at the moment. Rolling out ultra fast broadband is obviously a positive development, but with three quarters of SMEs currently without even a website, the East African country needed people to help firms move online successfully.

The number of degree graduates with IT specialties is predicted to increase but experts argue it wont be enough and the sort of growth required will need to continue in the years ahead.The ICT report also showed strong job growth and that wages and salaries paid in the sector were twice the Kenyan average.In the computer system design sub-sector, about extra 3,000 jobs were created last year alone. Another trend in the industry was increased funding from angel and venture investors.The Kenyan government is expected to release reports on seven sectors including high-technology manufacturing, construction, petroleum and minerals, tourism, knowledge-intensive services.The reports by are expected to provide detailed information about each sector and will be valuable for informing the debate about Kenya’s economic future. In addition, the reports will show the change that is occurring in the Kenya’s economy with the emergence of sectors like information technology alongside our traditional export sectors of Tea, Coffee and tourism.ICT manufacturing, telecommunications, and information technology services collectively employed more than 200,000 Kenyans in 2014, representing more than 10 per cent of the national workforce.

Contador Harrison