Several career paths are becoming dominant forces as youth look to move away from the traditional “big five” courses. With the evolution of technology worldwide, software engineering among other tech courses have overtaken several others as the most well paying career paths.
The entry of global giant telcos and software companies into the Kenyan market, local entities are finding it difficult to compete with them in terms of remunerating techies. These companies have established major bases in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria, and are using them as the launch pad for their footprint in Africa.
For the longest time, telecommunication companies and banks were the best institutions for software engineers and other techies in Kenya. However, the entry of global companies such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon has tilted the landscape.
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These companies are paying principal techies up to Ksh1.8 million per month, outpricing local companies by far.
According to a report by Business Daily, junior techies are paid Ksh300,000 per month by these giant global companies, whereas mid-level techies earn about Ksh500,000. Senior and lead techies are paid up to between Ksh800,000 and Ksh1.3 million per month.
The huge amount of salaries paid to these techies by the likes of Google, Amazon and Microsoft has made it difficult for local companies to compete.
Local companies such as Twiga Foods, Sendy, Wasoko among others have had to grapple with the challenge of recruiting and training techies then losing them to the giant multinationals. Big banks and telcos are also losing their top talent to the big tech companies.
However, while the tussle for techies has resulted in better pay, local and smaller foreign tech companies decry the disruption of their business endeavours.
“You know, what’s happening in this market across all of us. We have some people called Microsoft, Amazon, Google who are just mopping up our developers,” WPP Scangroup CEO Patricia Ithau was quoted by Business Daily as saying.
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“We have a programme we recruit from the university two, three months, they come in from college, and you offer them a hundred. Google tells them two hundred, there’s nothing you’re going to do. They’re going to go. And then they go from Google. Microsoft offers them three hundred, they’ll move. So until we start creating a lot more talent, it is the way of the world.”
As the multinationals continue to expand their base in Africa, employers in the country are expecting an increase in competition for tech talent.
In April 2022, Google announced the opening of its first ever Africa product development centre in Nairobi as it looks to expand its internet base in Africa. The US multinational announced that it would be hiring engineers, product managers, user experience designers, and researchers to staff the new centre.
On the other hand, Microsoft has also invested in the excess of $100 million (Ksh1.2 billion) on a tech hub in Kenya and Nigeria to hire and train techies in the region.
In 2019, the company opened the Africa Development Centre (ADC) in Nairobi and pledged to fill 500 software engineering roles and promised another facility in Lagos by 2023.
By March 2022, Microsoft had grown the number of personnel serving in software engineering, machine learning, data science, market research and other areas at its Nairobi ADC to over 450.
“The facility will continue our efforts towards training, equipping and hiring engineering talent in Kenya and Africa,” Jack Ngare, former managing director of the ADC said during the launch.
Microsoft Kenya boss Phyllis Migwi says that working for multinationals is not only about the money for the techies but also a learning process and an opportunity to make a difference in a liberal working environment.
“Microsoft offers a diverse and inclusive environment, as we believe that our continued success depends on the diverse skills, experiences and backgrounds that our employees bring to the company,” she says.
The competition for top tech talent has forced local companies to diversify their recruitment formula; training software developers and also partnering with independent techies.
According to Business Daily, Safaricom has hired 400 software developers in 2022 as the telco seeks capacity to run its highly digitised business.
The new recruits are 6.4 per cent of Safaricom’s 6,230 permanent, temporary, and contracted employees at the end of 2021, highlighting the aggressive acquisition of tech-savvy workers.
According to Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa, the telco has partnered with over 42,000 independent developers.
He says that the company is looking to tap techies straight out of learning institutions and helping them in the development while offering them employment opportunities.
“We will be announcing soon that we are going to be partnering with other tech companies and universities to influence curriculum, certification of developers, and also internships so that we also develop talent for the industry in the same way lawyers and accountants are developed,” Mr Ndegwa said.