With a population of about 1.2 billion people, over 900 million of whom are in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, Africa’s human capital has always been her greatest resource. This situation is particularly true for Nigeria, which boasts of a population of nearly 200 million inhabitants.
Unfortunately, Governments across the continent have continually failed to adequately utilise the immense human capital available to them. This nonchalance has made room for Africa’s brain drains, a situation that was previously peculiar to the medical and academic sectors, but now being witnessed in the continent’s burgeoning tech space.
A closer look at the ugly trend
Recent trends are indicative of a growing foreign interest in the African software ecosystem. The most obvious reason for the growing interest is the significantly lower cost of African software developers, as opposed to the higher cost of on-boarding and retaining software talent in Europe and America. Thus, employers and companies in need of low-cost software engineering talents have begun referring to African countries as a means of securing low-cost talents.
Factors encouraging brain drain in the tech sector
Low cost of African tech talent is the driving force – According to Mr Dele Bakare, the CEO of the leading on-demand platform for software products and software talent — FindWorker — the average Nigerian software developer’s salary ranges between, $12,000 and $24,000 per annum. This is a far cry from what the average American tech talent earns, he said. In specific terms, software developers in the United States of America earn an average of $100,000 per annum.
Having established this, it is easier to see why many African tech talents are easily swayed into relocating for greener pasture. It would be anybody’s dream come through to work in Silicon Valley whilst earning $100,000 per annum, as against working in Yaba and earning $12,000 per annum.
Investment in tech talents could help discourage tech brain drain
When asked to suggest a possible solution to the issue of brain drain in the African tech sector, Mr Bakare said investing in tech is the only way. In other words, continued investment in the tech sector is the only solution towards curbing brain drain. This is people investment would help to discourage tech talents from leaving.
Are tech incubator hubs helping?
Recently, we have seen the rise of numerous tech incubation organisations and businesses which specialise in the training and development of local African software tech talents. Some people have even argued that these tech incubation organisations are the reason for the foreign interest in African software engineering talents. Organisations such as Andela, Co-Creation Hub, FindWorka, Forloop, Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), Microsoft BizSpark, etc., are but a few of the bodies leading the charge for the training & development of local African tech talent.
What is the way forward?
In 2018, Nigeria’s Vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, announced plans by the Federal Government to re-engineer the curriculum of nursery school pupils in the country by including software development. The announcement was not well received by some Nigerians, mainly because it seemed far-fetched. Moreover, it sounded like one of those policies that could easily be forgotten. Needless to say it has been forgotten, seeing as nothing has become of the plan ever since the announcement.
It is pertinent that African Governments supplement the efforts already being made by private companies, to train/develop local tech talents. Also, more private organisations need to get involved in the effort to harness these African tech talents. The reason for this can never be over-stressed. In this present day and age, everything is digital. Therefore, Nigeria cannot afford not to develop its tech talents. The country definitely cannot afford to allow its talents be lured away, thereby leaving its tech space undeveloped.
The fear of systematic brain drain of African software talents is real. This has been evidenced by the current “Canada immigration boom,” which has seen hundreds of thousands of Nigerians relocate from the country. If not checked, Africa will continue to lose its brightest tech talents.