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Africa IT Jobs Outsourced to China – Africa May Become Perpetually Dependent on China for Certain Skills

30 August, 2013
ICT Africa Writer
August 30, 2013

Whenever an African leader visits London, Washington or any other Western city and have an opportunity to address Africans in the Diaspora, there always is a call for Africans to go back home and contribute to the development of Africa. A few weeks ago, I followed an Internet radio station when a newly elected member of parliament from Zimbabwe, Joseph Chinotimba, was taking questions from Zimbabweans all over the Diaspora. He repeated calls for Zimbabweans to go back to Zimbabwe and contribute to the development of their country so many times that I lost count.

It is ironic that there is an overwhelming number of ICT experts in the Diaspora who would rather be in Africa but are having a tough time landing a suitable job opportunity in their home country and yet there are so many opportunities in Africa which go to outsiders because recruiters claim that there are no suitably skilled Africans.

In an effort to support candidates in the Diaspora and in the continent seeking Africa IT jobs, we established an Africa IT jobs portal, where employers from Africa can post jobs free of charge. The portal immediately became a hit with hundreds of jobs posted on the site and hundreds of IT job seekers from Africa frequenting the site every week in search of opportunities.

However, most of the jobs posted to the site are traditional IT jobs, including software development, web design and development and similar jobs. What we don’t see on our Africa IT jobs portal and in other prominent Africa IT job sites are jobs associated with the ongoing telecommunication infrastructure development.

Africa has been spending billions a year developing telecommunication infrastructure over the past decade but this is not translating into high tech career opportunities for African Engineers. This could be attributed to the way most of the telecommunication infrastructure projects are developed.

At least 60% of ICT infrastructure projects in Africa are awarded as “turnkey” solution projects. This means that the vendor selected is responsible for all aspects of the project including equipment procurement, surveys, design, and installation and in some cases they also include maintenance of the infrastructure. Most of the vendors are Chinese, including Huawei, ZTE and China International Telecommunication Construction Company (CITCC) who use Chinese expertise for all the high-tech aspects of the projects. In a number of cases maintenance manuals are written in Chinese to ensure that Africans are forever dependent on the Chinese even for the most basic of network maintenance chores.

The saddest part of it all is that as most of these networks are deployed, there is no technology transfer from the foreign vendor to young African Engineers. Most of these types of Africa IT jobs will forever remain beyond the reach of Africans and Africa will remain perpetually dependent on foreigners for such skills.



Posted by John Akufo on 2013-09-05 07:21:29

Robert – You bring up an important observation. I too would not support paying “king’s ransom” to repatriate anybody from the Diaspora if all they had was paper qualification. But there is an aspect of the article that we cannot afford to ignore. Skills are meant to be developed and if many African companies continuously rely on Chinese (and other foreign) vendors for expertise without insisting on skills transfer to local engineers, we will be forever dependent on others for most of our skills.

Posted by Robert Yawe on 2013-09-04 23:58:15

I think we are going about this wrong, what we need is those experts in the diaspora to tell us what skills they have acquired. It must not be forgotten that a large number of those in the diaspora might have the right paper qualifications but no relevant experience which would separate them from those with the same qualifications in country. In short, what industry changing skill have you acquired that would justify an organisation relocating you back home and paying a kings ransom?

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