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Return of ICT Talent to Africa – ICT Brain Gain

20 March, 2013
 
It is estimated that there are more than 10 Million African immigrants living in North America or Europe. Some left for political reasons or civil strife and some left for economic reasons, seeking “greener pastures” in the West. But a significant number of Africans leave home for higher education with the intention of returning home to support the development of their economies. Upon completion of their studies, most Africans opt to remain in the West where they accept employment opportunities in the private sector or in academia, initially to gain valuable experience. The more they gain experience, the more they opt to stay permanently in the West, arguing that if they went back home, their new found skills would be wasted because of lack of suitable opportunities compatible with their new found skills.

But so much is changing back home, in Africa, especially in the ICT industry, that the lack of Africa IT jobs argument may no longer be valid. More than 10 submarine fibre optic cables had been deployed by the end of 2012, representing over 20Tbps of network design capacity, an unprecedented level of development in the ICT industry. Massive deployment of mobile networks has seen a more than 2000% increase in mobile subscriptions from less than 30 Million in 2,000 to about 700 Million in 2013. There is a widespread deployment of terrestrial fibre optic cable that has led to more than 250, 000km of cable currently in operation and new communications satellite saving Africa, including NigComSat, New Dawn and O3B (still to be launched). In addition, there are revolutionary new satellite technologies in the works intended to provide broadband access to more Africans and citizens of other emerging markets. An example is SWANSAT, a satellite technology that would require high level skills to develop and operate the associated terrestrial networks.

With all these developments in ICT in Africa, there is a tremendous amount of demand for technical and entrepreneurial skills to develop complimentary networks such as data centres, Internet exchange points, technology parks and many more that can take advantage of all the network developments. So it appears that there is no shortage of ICT opportunities to absorb a large number of Diaspora Africans with ICT related skills.

But there are serious accusations by some that African governments and the private sector have no appetite to take advantage of African skills at home and in the Diaspora to support the ICT boom. Most telecommunication opportunities in Africa – including network design, deployment, commissioning, operation and maintenance – are outsourced to foreign companies, especially those from China. This leaves very few opportunities for Africans as technical expertise and sometimes even casual labour is flown from overseas. Some project owners argue that they have to outsource because there is no suitable expertise in Africa.

So it appears that we have African employers having trouble finding African talent for the booming ICT industry and on the other hand, highly talented Africans claim that they cannot go home because there are no suitable opportunities for them. A number of organizations including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) affiliated organisations have attempted, without much success, to link African Diaspora talent to opportunities in Africa. In an attempt to support the on-going initiatives to link Disapora Africans and employers in Africa, ICT Africa has developed a portal for any company, organization or government department to share opportunities with thousands of Africans who visit the ICT Africa website. Our ICT job portal can be accessed by pointing your browser to the Africa IT job portal.


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