Africa’s tech market has arrived, and the world has taken notice. Companies of all sizes are innovating right across the continent and reaping the rewards of a vibrant, rapidly maturing sector.
Examples of this innovation are plentiful: Facebook and Google are investing in subsea cables to deliver high-speed internet across the region, while other businesses are helping fund a boom in Africa cloud computing providers. London-based private equity firm Actis is injecting $250m into African data centres as part of efforts to meet the demands of increased smartphone usage and the mass adoption of business software.
Countering outdated perceptions
And yet, this might come as a surprise to many people. From myths associated with lack of infrastructure to concerns about communication, language skills and the education level of local talent pools, it’s always telling how people cling to ideas that are either no longer true or never were in the first place.
What’s actually happening is that countries that might once have been known better for their natural resources are now rapidly acquiring reputations for being hotbeds of technology innovation, insight and skills.
Rwanda and Nigeria are two such countries – both were highlighted in a recent article from Everest Group as being critical locations in the sub-Saharan region’s growing relevance to service delivery.
Another report, this time from the Center for Global Development, noted that in Nigeria, “mobile telephony and internet connectivity, combined with urbanization and population growth, have created an environment for technology products and services.”
It’s a similar story in Rwanda, where the information communication and technology (ICT) sector grew 29% in 2020 – one of the few sectors to register any expansion. It was a Rwandan company that launched the first smartphone manufactured entirely in Africa. Its capital, Kigali, is set to be the home of Norrsken East Africa, the region’s largest hub for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Supercharging and developing talent
One of the great things about establishing tech hubs is how it supercharges talent. This has three key benefits. First, it means companies can look to local communities for new employees, rather than having to import people in. Second, it creates new talent pools for global companies looking for growth opportunities.
Finally, the skills and talent landscape evolves to become demand-led. This is where, instead of people acquiring skills and then seeking opportunity, the skills developed attract global investors. Success begets success, in effect, and it means that there is already a foundation of knowledge that all businesses can benefit from and add to.
Building sustainable, experienced talent pools
This is only possible with a combination of government buy-in and a commitment from companies to invest in skills development for the long term. It’s a point raised in the Everest article mentioned earlier. Having noted that Rwanda had lower talent availability, it went on to say that “companies will need to invest in growing and developing talent locally by training recent graduates, building a recruitment engine from the ground up, and other activities to create an experienced talent pool.”
That’s exactly what we’re doing at Tek Experts and has been at the core of our work in Africa. We opened the first Tek Experts office in Lagos in 2018, and we’re following it with a new location in Kigali in 2021. We now have more than 1,750 employees in Nigeria, with initial plans of adding 600 colleagues in Rwanda, significantly growing our presence across Africa and adding new capabilities to our global offering. At both sites, developing skills is fundamental to our ongoing success.
Rwanda, in particular, has a well-developed IT infrastructure and was placed 38 out of 190 countries when it came to ease of doing business by the World Bank. When we announced the office opening there, our CEO, Steve Heffron, got it spot on when he said: “We selected Rwanda based on the quality of technical talent and the welcoming business culture. Rwanda is a perfect fit as it helps to further accomplish our mission of helping leading technology brands deliver a world-class customer experience.”
That doesn’t mean we’ve turned all our attention to East Africa. In Lagos, we continued our collaboration with Microsoft to proactively attract, train and employ women into IT, setting them up for success. We’ve also just had the fourth cohort of managers based in Nigeria graduate from Trailblazers, our management program for technical and non-technical leaders at Tek Experts.
Our collaboration with Microsoft is well established and they recently announced working with the Nigeria government to accelerate digital transformation in the country.
Both locations are within two hours of coordinated universal time (UTC), meaning they’re ideally located to serve customers around the globe. Having two of our own specialist hubs, filled with engineering expertise, supports our goal of agile, knowledgeable support that can flex to meet our customers’ support needs.
Taking the first steps into new markets
Nigeria and Rwanda are just two examples of how the tech industry across Africa is rapidly maturing and making it more and more attractive at an enterprise level. There is a significant opportunity for businesses with the right mindset to diversify talent bases, improve skillsets, and harness local knowledge to help drive company growth.
Of course, getting into new markets, wherever they are in the world, is a complex process. Understanding the region, culture, local politics, and regulations is vital: the right guidance and experienced partners with local expertise are key. This is particularly true of Rwanda and Nigeria, and indeed the whole of Africa. If you’d like to know more about benefiting from Africa’s enterprise tech capabilities, get in touch, and we can discuss lessons learned and how to succeed.