This afternoon, I received a call from a South African firm that wanted to seek my services in a multi million rand project.When I asked why they called me despite the fact that even on my website its clear am committed to work exclusively for Somocon Oy,the chief information officer highlighted to me recent spate of multi-million rand IT projects they have been handling and how they are trying to attract more young workers to technology careers in their firm. Unfortunately for him, am at Somocon Oy for the long haul and have no intention whatsoever of seeking a programming and tech business career elsewhere. The CIO pointed to me his firm’s five-year, R2 billion program which included three-year, R400 million IT projects.According to him,at their peak, each of those IT projects called for “high hundreds” of staff and after a former workmate during my working days in Australia joined them,they thought my addition would be ideal but my focus at the moment lie elsewhere. The firm also plans to provide IT support and work on the SIPs program.The call brought me to some thinking line about inadequate qualified IT staff in African continent and when someone talk about a five-year project worth R2 billion, that translates into a heck of a lot of people and frankly there just aren’t enough people in South African and greater sub Saharan Africa to meet that demand.
Just like the firm, it is clear that other major organizations have similar programs of investment but their ambitions are always shattered by lack of skilled IT staff in technology projects that span enterprise resource planning systems, robotics which happens to be my favorite, digital marketing and developing self service applications for customers.What I feel companies should do in Africa is to work with a number of software companies and depending on the needs, a collection of smaller web developers and outsource to them their work until situation of skilled staff stabilises. However,in terms of steering core systems development and platform, I suggest they do it internally.They should also tap into global supply chains due to a shortage of skilled IT workers on shore and I know the reason organizations tended to offshore technology jobs in Sub Saharan Africa is because of a local skills shortage, rather than because labour was cheaper overseas.In countries like Philippines and India, salaries are growing much more quickly than in entire African continent although I believe at some point in future they will reach parity.Over the last five years, the number of enrolments in technology-related university courses has actually halved in South Africa, while the demand for work has more than doubled.Looking forward, firms like the one that contacted me will be staring into a more significant skills shortage and that has already manifested itself in the South African marketplace.