The digital age has led to enormous opportunities across the world and sub-Saharan Africa, but also significant challenges. This is an installment of a new DIAL insights series that explores some of these cross-cutting issues and offers practical recommendations for expanding the cadre of software developers across sub-Saharan Africa.
The insights and recommendations in this series are derived from research conducted by Dalberg Advisors, complemented by DIAL’s digital development experience. They provide an important starting point for addressing the software development capacity challenges across sub-Saharan Africa. However, during our research efforts, we identified a lack of data bout many of the elements we set out to investigate, including information collected by skills-development programs, as well as broader gaps around jobs, vacancies, hiring, and retention.
Implementing the recommendations in these insights and understanding their impact will require additional research, more data, and higher-quality data. Like our other recommendations, better collection of data rests in the hands of all stakeholders.
Here are three areas where better data and research would help:
- Skills-development programs need better tracking data to maximize their impact and profits. All skills-development programs should collect data, which is not currently happening across the board. Ensuring the capture of basic data such as recruitment, learning outcomes, placement rates, and customer satisfaction validated and comparable across providers, would enable more robust analysis of results and successes.
- Better market data on new/existing jobs and unfilled vacancies would help everyone. Without jobs data for the sector, it is impossible to assess the success of programs aimed aimed at reducing skills gaps, let alone assess their impact on important factors such as the progression of women (World Economic Forum 2017). In addition, the job descriptions and requirements for software development jobs need to be standardized to provide clarity for employees and employers alike.
- Better understanding of hiring practices/models will enable integration between employers and skills development programs. The ways in which companies obtain employees varies. Some hire permanent teams, others contract developers, and others outsource their needs. It’s not clear how much of this happens within the continent of the size of the teams that are needed. In addition, the levels of software development skills required varies dramatically by task, with some employers saying that the quality of talent they require cannot be found in sub-Saharan Africa.