Globalization, software and the Internet are changing the world faster than we all can catch up. From election hacking to disruption of transportation to the global domination of US and Chinese technology companies, we are clearly still at the beginning of a new age.
The question every citizen, business or nation needs to answer right now is; “how will all of these affect me?”
African nations are at the risk of undergoing a new form of slavery due to these massive shifts in how markets work and the fact that technology and the Internet will increasingly drive economic growth going forward.
Due to the huge imbalance of technology resources and the value they create, we will have a connected world in which powerful tech companies and governments that control these resources will also control the what, how, when and where of economic development. These companies and nations will be the gatekeepers and the rest of the world will be at their mercy. It will be a classic example of the bible quote “to him who has, more shall be given but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”
Artificial intelligence will play a big role widening this gap as more of our daily activities become automated and data-driven. There will be massive shifts in how we live, work, move around and create value. This will lead to job losses as companies employ fewer people to get better results.
To survive in this new age, citizens will need to acquire new skills that solve problems that software and machines can’t solve. A 2015 report by Forrester Research predicted that by 2019, some one-quarter of all job tasks will be offloaded to software robots, physical robots, or customer self-service automation.
Now what is Andela’s role in all of this? According to the company, it helps companies scale their software teams with world-class, full-time developers.
What it doesn’t mention is that majority of these companies aren’t local and the implication of that is their model provides western companies with cheaper technology skills making them even more competitive in a global economy by reducing their technology cost and increasing their profit.
This means that more local African technology talent would be developed and organized to focus on solving problems in more developed markets while African businesses seeking such talent can’t access them or find them too expensive to hire.
We already know about Africa’s brain drain in medicine. Many doctors move abroad once they get qualified. With software, engineers don’t need to relocate. They can enjoy the perks of working on exciting projects, earn good pay without leaving their relationships behind.
Andela prides itself in having an acceptance rate of less than 1% out of 70,000 applicants. This doesn’t in any way support the perceived economic value many believe the company adds to the countries it is present in.
What is clear however is that there needs to be an urgent effort backed by African businesses and governments to develop those other 69,300 young minds who are interested in programming and software development for Africa to be able to compete in this age.
This article isn’t a knock Andela’s business model. It is what it is, a business. The objective here is to drive a conversation about Africa’s technology future. Andela’s Distributed Learning Community program to develop 100,000 Africans in tech is an example of initiatives which can potentially position Africa well for the future. We need many more urgently and we need to see them through.
As a continent that barely does any manufacturing we have the opportunity to leapfrog to become a digital and software hub for the world. We need the kind of software revolution that’s happened in places like India.
The truth is that tech brain drain isn’t just an African problem. There is significant tech brain drain in France so much that in September 2015, a group of successful French startups wrote an open letter pleading with tech whiz-kids who have been lured to Silicon Valley to return to Paris.
But even the US doesn’t have enough tech talent to meet its demands. Google just announced a $1 billion grant to train US workers in high tech jobs. They are doing this because if they don’t find the right talent to do the kind of jobs that will keep them competitive they will find it hard to grow their business.
Dear Africa, what’s your move?