November 29th 2021
The Next Wave provides a futuristic analysis of BizTech and innovation in Africa. Subscribe here to get it directly in your inbox on Sundays at 3 PM (WAT).


Two decades ago, Nigeria’s tech ecosystem didn’t exist as we know it today. In the past decade, however, it has grown, and what this means, talent wise, is that human resource (HR) departments have the tedious job of finding talent for startups in the ecosystem. They have to retrain computer science graduates that have had an analogue education, convince talent in other industries to transition, and pray that the candidates they are interviewing are ambitious enough to have taught themselves to code.

Nigeria’s tech deficit is ironical, to say the least. For a country with over 200 million people, an astonishing 33.3% unemployment rate—which means 1 in 3 Nigerians that are able and willing to work do not have jobs—there shouldn’t be a talent deficit. Right?

But there is.

There are just 83,000 software developers in Nigeria. Compare that to California, which has 630,000, out of a total population of 39 million.

Mobolaji Adebayo–TechCabal Insights

As Nigeria’s tech ecosystem grows, its talent shortage has become more obvious, such that talent is now being sought from outside Africa to build products used in the country. Some of the reasons given for this shortage are: there are too few developers; remote work has enabled Nigerian developers to gain employment outside the continent; and most companies prefer senior talent.

A global problem

Some of the initiatives put in place to solve the talent problem are targeted at getting more people into tech. Developer training services like Semicolon and Decagon and, most recently AltSchool, a Nigerian startup wants to solve Africa’s talent deficit by training newbies to become junior developers. HGN Internship finds, develops, and places software developers in a 3-month internship. The programme started by the founder of Hotels.ng, Mark Essien, began as a pipeline for developers to support Hotels.ng but now has grown to become an important entry point into tech for thousands of students. While these are admirable initiatives, they are inadequate. As the Nigerian ecosystem matures, startups would need to adopt a more nuanced approach to talent development, acquisition, and retention.

Globally, the demand for talent outstrips supply and Africa is no exception. The pandemic is largely responsible for this global talent dearth, as it has made the modern worker recalibrate the way they see, evaluate, and approach work. Employees now have a louder voice at the bargaining table, and they use it to seek the flexibility of remote work, impactful and fulfilling jobs, and overall growth in their careers.

Since last year, workers all over the world have been quitting their jobs in droves—in what is now known as the Great Resignation—because of burnout, a search for greater work flexibility and fulfilment, etc. For example, in the UK, job vacancies exceeded 1 million to reach an all-time high in July last year. In the US, there were 10 million jobs vacant by the end of June, after 4 million people quit their jobs in April. Germany, Europe’s largest economy, has not been spared, with 34.6% of companies dealing with a dearth of skilled workers.


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An intentional game

Nigeria’s startups must invest in upskilling their employees, which will help them have cross-functional competence—a prerequisite for role movement within the organisation, which in turn can fill relevant hiring gaps. This is important as 76% of global IT decision-makers grapple with critical skill gaps on their teams, as data from training company Global Knowledge shows.

It is not surprising that skilling companies—focused on upskilling and reskilling—since last year have received $2.1 billion in funding, per Crunchbase data. The message is clear: salary bumps are not enough. As an employer, you must invest in the education, training, and career development of your employees, especially the entry- and middle-level ones.

Mobolaji Adebayo–TechCabal Insights

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has endorsed upskilling, while predicting last year that wide-scale investment in it will boost global GDP by $6.5 trillion, by 2030. And like every other region which will experience growth, if sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America invest in large-scale upskilling now, they will contribute an additional 7% to their GDP by 2030.

During TechCabal’s Twitter Space, “Talent wars: Employee mobility and retention”, hosted last Wednesday, Damilola Olokesusi, founder of shared mobility startup, Shuttlers, said bootstrapping companies can only afford to pay salaries but not facilitate employee engagement or the upholding of a good culture. What this means is that when startups are trying to find their feet—something they are almost always doing—it is easy for the first set of employees to become victims of bad workplace culture as the startup probably doesn’t have the capacity to pay competitive salaries, hire ready-made talent, or train entry-level ones.

In addition to getting more people into tech, Nigerian companies can solve the talent problem from their own end by upskilling their staff, enabling them to move departments, championing documentation processes that help new employees to settle seamlessly into their roles, and offering fine working conditions that motivate even people outside tech, who are willing and ambitious, to transition into the industry.

From the Cabal

Africa’s informal retail contributes $2.6 trillion to the region’s nominal GDP, but its supply chain is fragmented, Omnibiz, an e-commerce platform wants to solve this by digitising it.

Cliqki, an ad-tech wants to use social media to help brands, content owners, and creators create awareness for their products and services. Details here.

Kaiglo is an online marketplace that is optimising its service to increase Nigerians’ trust in online shopping, provide a variety of goods that Nigerians would normally have to ship into the country and sell at low prices. Details here.

Have a great week.


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Sultan Quadri, Staff Writer, TechCabal.

Sultan Quadri Staff Writer, TechCabal

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