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How to Win at Hiring Quality Remote Tech Talent in Africa

1 September 2022 , by Marcelle van Niekerk

The tech hiring market has shifted from hyperlocal to global in recent years. One of the driving factors is the rise of remote work, with startups and established businesses able to hire developers regardless of location. These skilled workers now also have far more options to choose from than before, allowing them to be selective about the companies they work for.

How to Win at Hiring Quality Remote Tech Talent in Africa

Because of this, hiring managers continue to face challenges in filling their tech talent pipelines. One way of addressing this is by tapping into new pools of talent. The African continent offers big opportunities in this regard, with a fast-growing number of highly skilled, remote-ready developers who are keen to land jobs with global companies.

We recently held a webinar on the topic of “How to Win at Hiring Quality Remote Tech Talent in Africa”, in partnership with Playroll. The session was hosted by Deborah Watt, Head of Talent Acquisition at OfferZen and Louis Demetroulakos, Head of Partnerships at Playroll. Andrew Mori, CEO of Deimos, and Jeff Miller, CEO and co-founder of GoGetta, joined to share their learnings on the topic.

During the webinar, we unpacked why tech talent in Africa offers a competitive advantage, shared learnings on successfully hiring remote talent in Africa, and insights on reducing the risk of making a remote tech hire in Africa for the first time.

Why tech talent in Africa offers a competitive advantage

Playroll has experience helping companies hire from more than 170 countries — employers are limiting themselves by not tapping into the talent pool in Africa, said Louis.

“We really love working with businesses on their hiring needs. Talent is everywhere, and there are tons of opportunities in Africa — particularly for finding great software engineering talent. If you're a business that's looking to scale your team, this is a great place to start.”

Andrew echoed these sentiments. “There is incredible talent in these countries, and finding the right person can create such a large change in an organisation”.

The panelists discussed the following advantages to hiring in Africa:

A wider talent pool

Hiring managers have an immediate competitive advantage by getting access to more developers that are looking for work. A wider talent pool gives hiring teams a greater chance to find the right fit for their criteria. This is especially useful when operations begin to scale and the team starts to grow.

Set the hiring standards in thriving tech communities

Over and above the prospect of hiring developers from South Africa, Andrew listed Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and Rwanda as specific countries that already have thriving tech communities.

“Energetic, passionate, young people are all getting into tech. People in these communities are looking for remote work, and these opportunities present them with solutions to their own problems.”

This has become evident through Deimos’ work in the continent providing cloud services to their customers. They have a hundred-person team distributed across these countries, and are hiring in Rwanda and Senegal. “I've personally been responsible for hiring somewhere between 300 and 400 people in Africa over the last 10 years,” said Andrew.

Companies tapping into these regions early gain an advantage by hiring some of the best available talent before anyone else. They can also set up standards for localised hiring processes, that will make it easier to find future tech talent faster.

“There is an immense [amount of] raw potential in these regions,” Andrew added. Although senior developers are still scarce in these regions, you have the chance to invest in promising developers who will become the next generation of senior engineers.

Learnings from companies who have successfully hired remote developers in Africa

To win at hiring quality remote talent in Africa, it helps to follow the footsteps of companies that have done so already. Here are some of our panellists’ top learnings:

Be mindful of cultural sensitivities

It’s key to understand the person you’re looking to hire’s context, said Jeff. What works for one person in one country is not likely to work for someone else across the border.

“Each country has its own particularities and way of doing business. For some people are more soft-spoken, others more direct. That doesn’t mean one is more effective than the other. You must be sensitive to the mannerisms and the cultures of the people in [the specific] country.”

To help gain a thorough understanding of each country’s culture, GoGetta — an equity crowdfunding platform that is expanding across Africa — employs country managers who are familiar with each specific region. Setting out with a view toward understanding and embracing these differences will help you create a diverse team.

Get your onboarding process right

Andrew discussed the significance of getting the onboarding process right when making a remote hire in Africa. “You're setting expectations and a precedent for your hiring process,” he said.

The candidate is putting themselves out there for a position in a foreign-based organisation. This is even more reason to make them feel welcome throughout the process, from the first interview phase to their start day.

Ways to accomplish this include having all equipment ready for your new joiner, as well as a nicely packaged welcome pack that includes branded merchandise such as a t-shirt, says Andrew.

Pay fairly across regions

When you start benchmarking salaries for the regions where you’ll be hiring, always keep in mind that candidates will compare your salary offer against a larger number of competitors.

“You're not competing for talent in local markets, you’re competing in an international market,” Andrew said. “So anyone you're trying to hire in Kenya is [also] looking internationally. Candidates that are applying for your jobs are probably applying at any company that offers remote salaries. Therefore, we try our best to pay fairly across all regions.”

To help them put together final salary offers, Andrew makes use of a function on Playroll, that allows you to calculate the in-country taxes and all the deductions that are at stake. They also make use of recruitment agencies to assist with benchmarking and research.

Offer an exciting tech stack and culture

No matter where they’re hiring from, Andrew mentions that companies need to “provide an environment where engineers get to work on cutting-edge technology”. Those who do are more attractive to the top talent in the field. At Deimos, they achieve this by offering a wide range of work with different clients and projects, that provide plenty of opportunity for growth.

In addition, offer concrete benefits that make your culture more attractive while upskilling your developers in a new region at the same time. For example, they offer certification training to the developers on their team that work with Cloud technologies.

Deimos has also found it crucial to make mentorship and coaching an explicit part of their culture. To do that, they assess for engineers’ mentorship skills as part of their hiring process.

How to de-risk a remote tech hire in Africa

If you’re looking to scale your team, the African tech scene shows great promise. The good news for companies who want to hire developers from Africa, is that there’s a variety of resources available to reduce your risks.

Using an Employer of Record

One option is to make use of Employer of Record services designed to help streamline the remote hiring process, from being able to legally employ your new hires in the region, to getting them set up with the right equipment.

Playroll, for example, is an Employer of Record (EOR) that handles all the compliance aspects related to hiring talent on your behalf. They cover general compliance, payroll taxes, admin and more, so you can hire team members anywhere in the world. This is the solution Jeff opted for at GoGetta.

“I must say that changed the whole landscape for us,” he said. “We would make one payment to a South African bank account, and they would they would then make the payments to the various country employees on our behalf. In terms of the legislation, it’s much easier and far simpler.”

If your company is about to start hiring quality remote tech talent in Africa, and considering using an EOR, you can get a discount through OfferZen by signing up to Playroll here.

Services to deliver equipment

Using a service to manage the delivery of equipment for your remote employees also becomes necessary as you scale, said Andrew.

“Initially we managed everything ourselves,” he said. “We have an admin team at the company, some of them are based in different locations and typically we're managing the purchasing and delivering of onboarding gear, as well as maintenance, support and insurance. I think that’s workable for fifty to a hundred people, but typically not set up for scale. And so my People Ops team are currently looking at different tools.”

Examples of such services and tools include Hofy and Workwize, which can help you get your remote employees set up with all the equipment they need.

We hope this sets you up to make many successful remote hires, while stimulating a growing tech scene on a continent with a world of promise.

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