The deficit of tech talent in the African ecosystem; Nigeria as a case study

The state of the nation is another factor for talent wanting to “Japa”- the term used in Nigeria for brain drain.

The deficit of tech talent in the African ecosystem; Nigeria as a case study

The question ruminating the minds of technical recruiters or founders in Nigeria and other African countries is how can I solve this problem of highly skilled tech talents relocating to other countries?

How can I ensure that my most experienced talents are not willing to relocate? Research carried out by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in March 2022 revealed that digital employees in Africa are willing to relocate to other countries for work, with 76% saying they would move compared to 55% globally.

This issue of African tech companies losing their talents to foreign companies has now become the order of the day in the African tech ecosystem.

A deep dive: Why are these tech talents relocating?

In a typical average Nigerian Family, many have come to ascribe success to having a member of your family based abroad. A lot of parents tend to compare their children to others who have had the opportunity to school abroad or even work and reside there. This impression from our parents has come to pollute the minds of so many youths that they are not successful until they travel abroad and are based there. With a lot of tech jobs coming with relocation offers, and with the youths bearing this in mind as an opportunity for them to be termed successful, they often do not think twice before accepting these offers.

It is also known that a lot of local offers do not come with juicy compensation. Nigerian tech employees value the opportunity for learning, skills training, and flexibility in the work mode with the majority preferring the remote work option to hybrid and onsite.

This is due to the stress of Lagos traffic and the opportunity for them to take on other offers as their physical presence is not needed hence they can’t be easily monitored and since they deliver on their job, they do not see this as an issue rather an opportunity to earn more money. Even though most of these talents are trained locally, the vast majority would still prefer foreign offers due to better opportunities, this, to a large extent confers prestige especially if it comes with relocation options, improved work conditions and remuneration.

The state of the nation is another factor for talent wanting to “Japa”- the term used in Nigeria for brain drain. The rate at which corruption has evolved in Nigeria in the last 10 years is alarming. Nigeria is currently on the verge of becoming a failed state. Insecurity, Inflation, Bad and Corrupt governance, and Poverty all contribute to our current situation.

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“Japa" is Yoruba for “to run, flee, or escape.” The word takes firm root in the aspiration that young Nigerians have to leave the country for good.

A lot of these talents make the decision to relocate because we all want a better and more peaceful means of livelihood. Global companies turning to Nigeria to fulfil their tech talents has also paved the way for Nigerians to relocate.

In August 2022, Amazon hosted an event for Nigeria for developers who are interested in working for them and relocating to Canada, Ireland or US offices to work and even Microsoft has orchestrated hiring programmes in the past for these talent to relocate. The benefit for these companies is that it increases the level of diversity and inclusion, and they also have access to a wide pool of specialised senior tech talents to recruit from.


Related Article: Scholarships for Africa's tech talent

The Next steps: An Opportunity or a Threat

If one should critically think about this relocation wave in Africa, one can conclude that it favours the youth and others can argue that it doesn’t. Whichever way one chooses to look at it, it can either be a threat or an opportunity.

Founders of some notable tech companies have had to work or live abroad at some point in their lives and as such, when they are back, they bring their experience, skills, innovation and business networks and a huge remittance flow which was valued at $19.2 billion in 2021. This favours the local tech economy and also paves the way for more youths to get into tech thereby reducing the unemployment rate in Nigeria.

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Last year, remittance inflows to Sub-Saharan African countries rose by 14.1% to $49 billion, according to the World Bank. Nigeria currently receives the largest portion of total remittance inflows into Sub-Saharan Africa, due to the significantly sizable diaspora base.

With more youths getting interested in tech, training institutes like Decagon, Altschool, Semicolon, the bulb Africa, and codetrain amongst others will have more than enough talent to train. More tech training institutes will be birthed as a result of the inability of the current ones to meet the demands for training these talents, which in turn will yield an increase in the growth of the economy. Another opportunity this brings is that it serves as a wake-up call for the Nigerian government to provide solutions to the problems it is currently being faced with as the citizens find the country an unconducive place to live in.

The local companies on the other hand would also have to step up their games in terms of compensation and offers if they want to retain or hire quality top talent. When these two institutions come to see that they have a part to play in this and they begin to improve as such, we all win. On the other hand, this poses a threat to the quality of senior talents available for local companies to hire.

The ones available are expensive to recruit and retain as they will be expecting the same type of benefits their counterparts working with foreign companies get. A company that is unable to meet the demands of these talents is at risk of losing them. Startups who are still looking to scale fast are not able to do so as even the time and cost to hire increases as the available talent can be in more than one recruitment process at a time, this also brings about a competitive process for these recruiters.

The Nigerian youth which constitutes a larger percentage of the workforce emigrating further proves to others that Nigeria is not a conducive country to live in. The thoughts running through the mind of people is that no one would want to leave where he/she is comfortable residing especially if it's his/her country of birth.

This confirms the impression the whites have about us and it gives them more reason to continue the oppression Nigerians face all over the world. Shall we then, knowing the impact of this on our economic growth fold our hands and do nothing? At this stage, there seemed to be no clear solution to this issue. However, no place like home they say, citizens of a nation wanting to leave their home country should be on the basis of relaxation and leisure and not for the fear of the unknown nor for greener pastures.


This article was contributed by Mercy Ajiboye, an Associate Product Manager at Decagon and the Programs Manager for Web3Ladies.