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How Nigerian firms are strategizing to keep tech talents from leaving

Enticed by bumper work incentives by firms abroad, Nigerian tech talents that are leaving are causing their local employers sleepless nights and forcing them to restrategise their recruitment approach.

Prior to the pandemic, a Nigerian Bank would rarely consider recruiting staff and allow them to work remotely on a permanent basis. But CTOs of Wema, GTBank, First Bank, and Access Bank say they have had to change their approach in order to remain attractive to top tech talents whom they need to drive their digital banking transformation projects.

“There is a global shortage of talent and it is something that we spotted some years ago,” Adeola Bajomo, Executive Director and Operations at Access Bank Plc, said at a conference organised by Renaissance Capital recently. “We are taking clear actions like building local talents.”

In August, Access Bank entered into a partnership with Udacity, a US-based company that focuses on vocational courses for professionals. The collaboration with the bank is aimed at empowering people across Africa who are interested in learning tech-forward skills to kick-start careers in the banking industry in 2021.

Participants in the training would get hands-on learning opportunities in fields such as business, analytics, programming, data science, product management, and digital marketing. Access Bank and Udacity would be awarding 1,000 people who will complete a portfolio of real-world projects that demonstrate mastery of highly sought-after tech skills.

Read also: Why Nigerian fintech industry is strictly regulated SEC

For Eduofon Japhet, Group Head Business Solutions at GTCO the parent company of GTBank keeping the best talent requires a lot more than grooming them in-house. The bank is exploring different options like engaging remote tech talents.

“Before, we used to have staff that worked with us for ten years, but we realise that those years are shortening. Now, we are looking for alternatives like freelancing and also growing talent locally,” Japhet said while appearing on a panel at the Renaissance Capital conference.

Every other day, tech talents in Nigeria announce on social media platforms like Twitter they are leaving Nigeria to join a company in the US, UK, or any other location around the world. The reasons for leaving range from salaries and incentives that are unable to compete with high inflation and a weak currency, poor working conditions, lack of flexibility by employers, and access to quality training among many others. There is also discontent with the way local talents are treated compared with expatriates that work for Nigerian organisations.

“Talented professionals of all ages and demographics are tired of seeing organisations giving hefty compensation and benefits packages to expatriates in foreign countries, while they are forced to overwork (in more cases more than the expat) and still be underpaid. In fact, in some organisations, being paid at all is considered a privilege,” Jennifer Oyelade, a talent acquisition consultant noted.

The tech talents in Nigeria are also pushed to leave when they see the testimonials of friends, former colleagues, and peers who left the country and are thriving. The report from Tunga shows that the average Nigerian developer is paid locally between 800 to 900 euros (about N450,000) per month. On Glassdoor the national average for a software developer is N239,000 per month.

Startups in Europe, Germany in particular, are hiring Nigerian programmers via LinkedIn, Tunga and offering a lot more than what the average software talent gets in Nigeria. Outside Nigeria, the mid-level salary is $65,000 per year. Some relocate, others work remotely from home on their Macbook plugged into a solar-powered inverter.

“From my personal experience in the last 10 years, quality of life is better abroad than in Nigeria,” Dipo Awojide, a Senior Lecturer at Nottingham University said. “But with all the problems, challenges, and opportunities, I’d still rather be in Lagos Nigeria. Can’t say the same once I factor in education and healthcare of kids.”

Local tech companies without the financial resources of building talents locally, like the banks are offering different incentives including all-expense-paid relocation offers.

“I was speaking to a CEO last night and he explained how he helps his junior engineers ‘japa’ by setting up an office in Europe. If they do 2 years in his Nigeria office they can be transferred out to his European office. He has also made his peace with paying in USD. These are key,” said Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, co-founder of Future Africa, a venture vehicle backing early-stage startups in Africa.

Remote work offers have also become popular in the tech ecosystem. Rather than insist on full-time employment, founders are increasingly embracing working with new recruits on a remote-term basis. It gives the talents the opportunities to still stay in Nigeria but earn salaries from more than two or three companies within and outside the country.

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