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South African developers are the key to scaling your tech team affordably

23 April 2024 , by Anne Gonschorek

It’s no secret that there are many challenges for companies looking to hire developers. High demand, smaller budgets, a shortage of senior talent, and the cost of hiring and retaining developers are just a few of the concerns tech hiring managers are voicing.

The problems might be complex, but there’s a surprisingly easy way to overcome many of them: hiring South African developers.

OfferZen’s VP of Community Stephen van der Heijden spoke to co-founder and CEO of Playroll Brendon Silver and Doctorly CTO Jack Godau about the opportunities of hiring South Africans, as well as how to make the most of this talent pool to ensure you’re able to grow your team effectively.

Want to learn more about the advantages of hiring South African developers?

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The strategic hiring advantages of the South African talent pool

There are a bunch of benefits that come with hiring developers in South Africa. Here are some that make these resources particularly attractive:

  • Talent pool breadth and depth: “The talent pool is quite deep and great to swim in,” said Jack. South Africa produces world-class developers who are proficient in an array of programming languages. They’re also known for being hard-working, innovative and adaptable.

  • English proficiency: The South African tech community is largely English speaking and business is conducted in English. This means that developers can easily integrate into companies where English is the primary language of exchange.

  • Time zone overlap: South Africa sits in the GMT+2 time zone along with many European nations. Even during daylight savings, there is plenty of overlap to allow for collaboration.

  • Remote work savvy: South African developers are well-versed in the dynamics of digital collaboration – and it’s the way they prefer to work. According to the OfferZen 2024 State of the Developer Nation survey, more than 90% of them have experience working remotely and the majority say they would leave a role if forced to return to the office full time.

  • Interest in international exposure: Almost all (97%) of tech talent in South Africa are keen on working for an international company.

“The key point here is exposure. There’s a hunger for South Africans who are growing their careers to really work with the best people in the best skill sets and the best markets.” (Brendon Silver)

  • Cost effectiveness: The financial benefit of hiring South African developers is huge. Companies fishing in this talent pool have the opportunity to significantly expand their tech teams without having to sacrifice on quality.

While the other benefits are convincing on their own, both Jack and Brendon pointed out that the significant potential salary savings are likely the biggest drawcard for international entities.

"It's no secret that companies are tightening their belts and developer talent is certainly something that they're starting to look at. They’re starting to think about ways to be able to hire more people at a time for the same overall cost,” explained Brendon.

“South Africa, from that perspective, is really unbeatable. We're seeing costs come in at 25% of the total cost in Europe, so it's very easy to make your money go further and get talent, particularly where location doesn't matter as much anymore." (Brendon Silver)

These cost savings don’t have to detriment employees, either, Jack noted. The lower cost of living and favourable exchange rate mean that companies can give developers attractive benefits and still keep their salary bill relatively low, creating a “win-win” situation.

“If you’re looking at Germany, for example, you have to calculate somewhere between 25% and 33% on top of their salary for taxes, health insurance, pension and so on, Jack reasons. "What we do is, we pay people all of these benefits. And it’s still way cheaper here."

“So, by giving some of the savings to the people who are working for you and keeping some for ourselves, everybody’s winning. They’re getting a really good deal and we’re getting a really good deal, so that’s really positive.” (Jack Godau)

Strategies for hiring South African developers

Companies looking to dive into South Africa’s talent pool will need to overcome the challenges of hiring developers in this market. Fortunately, there are a few simple strategies you can use to do this.

Understand the South African tech ecosystem

South Africa has a wealth of world-class developers thanks to the high-quality of training that programmers receive at its universities and through coding bootcamps.

Understanding which institutions and specialist coding schools lead in the tech education sphere – and what developers are likely to focus on while in those spaces – can help employers to hire capable candidates with the right skills.

Build a robust hiring process

A strong hiring strategy will help you to identify the most suitable candidates and keep them engaged throughout the hiring process.

“It’s the same as when you’re employing anyone else,” Jack said. “You’ve got to keep an eye out, but choosing the right individuals is what matters. You need to vet people and make sure that they’re a good fit for you.”

Work with an employer of record

An employer of record (or EOR) can be a game-changer for companies looking to hire internationally. Using this model can help you to avoid having to register an entity in South Africa and navigate the local labour laws yourself.

“It’s effectively like having your own staff member without having to set up the infrastructure. You find the people that you want; they’re on your system, they’ll report to your managers and they follow your HR policies, but we as the EOR are the legal employer,” explained Brendon.

Cultivate remote-friendly culture

Effective remote management is pivotal for ensuring that South African talent can integrate with the rest of your team.

“Where we find things go wrong is around internal remote management. So, the question is how do you manage the remote team? How do you get them involved? How do you get them to culturally fit in and feel part of the business?" (Brendon Silver)

“If you’re going to be running remote tech teams, there's a lot of work to do, when looking at this model, to make sure that people fit in. That's something to certainly focus on,” said Brendon.

Want to tap into the South African dev talent pool? On OfferZen, 200+ new developers from South Africa and beyond go live every week. Get access here.

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