Technology and software companies in Africa are losing their top talent to big tech giants like Microsoft and Google. This, said experts, will continue for the unforeseeable future though it is not necessarily a bad thing.
Duncan Masiwa reports that attendees at the Next Fintech Forum in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire heard that leading tech players like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu, and Tencent are increasingly making its presence felt in Africa.
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In a big way, big tech and its moonshots are therefore shaping Africa’s tech industry, believes Lavina Ramkissoon, co-founder of the Fintech Association of South Africa and advisor to the African Union.
“Big tech is playing quite a large role from an infrastructure perspective, and a lot of investment is coming in to lay the foundations of how technology needs to operate,” she explained during a panel discussion presented as part of the Next Fintech Forum.
In the past two years, GAFAM companies (an acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft) have placed an increased focus on tech skills by upskilling youth and affording them access to opportunities within the tech space.
“Of late, we have also seen them do investments, in particular, to start-ups and giving them funding with raw equity as well. Going forward, I think it’s going to create quite an interesting dynamic of an African localisation perspective, versus the big tech international ideals and visions that they have,” said Ramkissoon.
In an overview of the technology landscape in Kenya, Sebi Salim, a board member of the Association of Fintech in Kenya, said companies in this country are concerned that they were losing top talent to GAFAM companies.
“[Those of] us who have been running software or technology companies, we are also losing our talent to them.
“There is a big demand for top developers, creators, content writers, designers in the technology space [in Africa]… So, definitely the demand will increase significantly and we all need to be prepared for that growth,” Salim said.
Dangers for countries without AI strategies
While the importance of tech in Africa cannot be overlooked, experts also warned that many African countries still do not have Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategies in place. This affected the pace of technological advancement on the continent.
Ramkissoon said, “The innovations are coming from the youth or business begging for something to change and they develop and progress [as a result of that]. On the other side, you have those that are heavy regulated.”
The African Union is known to play an important role in putting down AI guidelines, which are then implemented per country.
Ramkissoon, however, cautioned that “a lot of the times those guidelines are misinterpreted along the way, which leads to a lot of room for errors. As a result, the active countries benefit because they are more vocal and come to the party.”
AI strategies and some form of tech direction is important for any country, she added. This is why experts in the field were needed and given the space to implement it on a policy level.
“On the ground, we also need to make room for young people through internship and apprenticeship programmes,” Ramkissoon said. “And driving a completely different narrative that [enables] Africa to actually innovate or re-direct [its] narrative.”