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The Real Cost of ICT Brain Drain Within Africa

15 December, 2013
ICT Africa News
15 December 2013

We have focused way too much on the loss of ICT talent in Africa due to brain drain from Africa to North America and Europe. What most people have not paid attention to is the loss of ICT talent from one African country to another. The key driver for the exodus of skilled professionals from one African country to another is salary difference.

In most of the cases where ICT professionals leave their countries, the countries losing talent are also losing the time and resources they spend training these experts. The countries would have mobilized considerable financing in grants and loans (which get defaulted on) to fund the education of their citizens at local institutions. Ironically, the exodus is usually from poorer to wealthier African countries. In a way, the poorer African countries are subsidising the cost of talent for their wealthier sister countries.

What is most disheartening is that those who leave their countries are often among the best and brightest. They are creative, ambitious, often charismatic, and a number of them are top leaders.

A very good example of this exodus is that of talent pouring from a number of Southern African countries into South Africa. Some estimates put the number of Zimbabweans alone in South Africa at one to three million. Very talented ICT experts are among them and it is no surprise that the Chief Executive of the largest mobile network in Africa, Sifiso Dabengwa, is from Zimbabwe.
Botswana, Egypt (before the turmoil) and Algeria are some of the countries that have benefited from the immigration of skilled ICT talent from other African countries.

As most African countries rapidly develop their ICT networks and services, those losing skills face a huge challenge. Most of them are forced to outsource all aspects of network development, implementation and maintenance from overseas, especially from China where the services and products that come along as "turn-key solution" are said to be dirty cheap.
But sometimes it is true that "you get what you pay for". Some of the outsourced "cheap" services turn out to be substandard and lead to very high cost of maintenance and, as a result, high overall cost of ownership. We believe that this may also be contributing to poor quality of service in many networks in Africa.

For more on our perspective on outsourcing of ICT services to the East, please visit Africa IT Jobs Outsourced to China – Africa May Become Perpetually Dependent on China for Certain Skills.


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