Education and JobsFeature Friday

“There is a huge supply of junior developers in Africa, but the demand for them is low” – Wilfred Ekpo

How Findworka is creating greater access to elite tech talent in Africa - Startup Lagos

Tech talent in Africa is growing considerably. Against the growing surge of opportunities in Africa, the necessity of skilled and experienced tech talent cannot be understated. Africa boasts of the youngest population globally, with the average age of Africans estimated at 19.5 years old. With the explosion of socio-economic challenges throughout the continent, opportunities lurk behind each bad spot. And Africans are more than driven to learn, to conquer, and proffer solutions to these multifaceted challenges. 

The key realization in recent times is as to the power of technology to drive this socio-economic transformation and enable timely and creative solutions to Africa’s diverse problems. As Juliet Ehimuan, Director for West Africa, Google, stated just recently at the first-ever virtual Google For Africa event, 

In every crisis, there is an opportunity. For us in Africa, this has been about unlocking the power of digital transformation, which has the power to grow Africa’s internet economy by over 5% by 2025. 

Africa’s progress in technological sophistication has more than spiraled in recent times, especially as the biggest increases in coverage and internet penetration, over the last year, are being recorded in sub-Saharan Africa. The result of this is the increased emergence of technology startups and initiatives that utilize technology in solving prevailing socio-economic difficulties in various parts of the continent. While this tech wellspring keeps swelling, there is a consequent need for quality tech talent, to work at crystallizing these ideas using technology. The success of Andela, a global talent network, reaching unicorn status this year, is proof of the fact that investors are seeing the huge and crucial need for tech talent growth continent-wide. 

Findworka: Bridging the software talent gap

Findworka is providing easy access to elite tech talent in Africa. Source: Findworka, 2019

A team with a big dream of solving Africa’s vital need for software talent that is tested and graded, Findworka was established to be the go-to platform for supplying pre-vetted designers and developers. Before starting out, essential research on the critical pillars of growth in any startup ecosystem revealed to Dele Bakare, Wilfred Ekpo, and Tunde Yusuf that talent was one of the important elements to solve for. The following crucial questions emerged: 

How do we create a platform that systematically matches the best of African designers and developers with the companies that are ready to employ them? How do we, on the one hand, aggregate these opportunities for the talents, and on the other hand, capture, for employers, the most competent talents to build their products?

Wilfred ekpo

It was due to these concerns that Findworka was birthed in 2016, as an elite network of pre-vetted African software developers, who have undergone testing and are effectively matched with partners. The overarching goal was to provide a critical mass of talent that would drive the successes of Africa’s dynamic companies. 

Framing the challenge: Tech talent gaps in Africa

Experienced senior tech talent in Africa is scarcely available

A recent report by Ernst & Young, on the State of Fintech in Nigeria, shows the volume of fintech talent in the country is both limited and insufficient. And so, the biggest challenge faced by these fintechs, is the challenge of attracting and retaining talent. This is much the same across Africa as a whole, and as well across other tech-enabled sectors of Africa. While there is this dearth of talent, the report outlines that, advanced digital skills are essential for the success of fintechs, and more so, any other startups. Also, much of this talent is local, with remote working, and the competitive nature of compensation globally, changing the dynamics of recruiting for these talents. 

In an interview with Startup Lagos, Wilfred, further notes that,

The talent ecosystem looks like a pyramid. At the bottom, you have more supply than demand. You have Techcampus, Andela Learning Community, HNG Internship, and a host of other private sector-led initiatives, pouring junior talents into the ecosystem. At that level, you have got a lot of junior developers, but the demand for them is low. As you go further, the demand for experienced developers increases sharply and the supply appears limited.

wilred ekpo

He, however, notes that the disparity in the statistics should not worry stakeholders too much. He predicts that, eventually, these thousands of junior developers would gain the required experience and fill the demand for seniors. 

With the reality of COVID-19 and mobility restrictions, there has been a renewed shift to remote work, especially for developers. This has increased the difficulty with tech talent retention, as compensation for developers has become a topic of great concern in Nigeria, following competitive offers from foreign counterparts. As a result, most African developers, working in African companies, are either working extra gigs for more money or preparing for the next big opportunity to work for international companies. 

As Wilfred highlights, the increased adoption of remote work puts African developers in a better position. There is no real limit to the number of possible recruiters that they can be matched with.

How can Africa retain and leverage on its pool of tech talent?

With a surge in junior developers on the continent and the promise of growth, with these new talents blustering with zeal and commitment to improvement, there is a wealth of opportunity in Africa’s tech talent. Companies in the US and in Europe are beginning to realize the wealth of resource and potential that Africa has for outsourcing software talent, and are tapping into it. A report by USA Today proves that there are over 1.4 million more software jobs than applicants to fill in the US alone. As the pandemic jolted everyone to the new normal of remote work, there has been increased head-hunting of software talent across Africa, by foreign companies.  

The question is: With Africa’s rising pull of investment and funding, especially this year, and the resultant expansion that this funding will catalyze, how will Africa leverage its talent across the different sectors? One crucial concern of Wilfred, and possibly others in the industry, is whether Africa has yet the capacity to make efficient use of its tech talent. As a relatively young ecosystem, only a few African companies have the capacity to effectively compensate skilled and experienced tech talent, like their counterparts overseas. 

So, we don’t have Microsoft-sized companies yet. If you’re looking at the big startups like Flutterwave, Paystack, Andela, etc., you might be misled to think that every software developer works in almost ideal conditions. These companies are an elite minority really. In our ecosystem, we need to come down a bit and look at the majority that is playing in the middle. I think that with many employers, my conversation with them has revealed that many of them want to do more for their developers (increase their compensation and benefits, etc.) but at the end of the day, it is about their financial capacity.

wilfred ekpo

He believes that as the African tech space continues to flourish, the ways through which it engages its engineering talent will continue to get better, and the ways through which this talent is harnessed to build global solutions will only improve. However, the landscape is changing, especially for tech talent, with remote work. Human resource management professionals in the continent have to realize this even more. As such, developers do not believe in 9-5s or in stringent physical work schedules. They are more inclined to tasks, and HR practitioners need to evolve in relationship styles with tech talents as these changes become more pronounced. 

Findworka: Future growth

As Wilfred captures succinctly, 

Our [Findworka’s] big ambition is to supply over 50% of elite tech talent in Africa. 

The company is approaching this goal in many ways, through its Findworka Pro category, which is an elite pool of talent that has undergone the company’s dual-stage vetting process on both technical and soft skills assessments. These are matched with different companies globally. With over 2,000 talents in that pool, the company is dedicated to providing skilled and qualified tech talent for a wide range of clients. The company also has a larger community of talents of different levels, numbering over 5,000. The Pro platform is currently undergoing an upgrade.

The Techcampus (previously Findworka Academy) is a training initiative that the startup is consistently growing and expanding, with a new switch to virtual modules, after the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. Finally, the company is working on a web and mobile application that makes the experience of hiring elite tech talent seamless for clients. Through the platform, with little to no human interference, clients will be able to access, shortlist, hire and manage candidates on Findworka without any hassles.  

More than ever, Findworka is keen on addressing the glaring loopholes in Africa’s talent ecosystem, and providing a seamless platform for tech talent to interface effectively with abounding work opportunities within the tech ecosystem in the continent. The undeniable importance of filling this need is something that the African tech ecosystem is coming to grasp, especially as the continent continues its dynamic rise in investments and tech opportunities.

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