The brightest and best of South Africa’s information technology professionals – desperately needed locally to grow the digital economy – are being shamelessly poached by head-hunters from the United States, Europe and Australia.
This is according to Len de Villiers, who recently retired as Group CIO at Telkom and now acts as a newly appointed chairperson at system architecture and data analytics company MOYO Business Advisory (MBA).
“We are privileged that South Africa has some of the best universities and technical training facilities in the world producing top class professionals in the ICT sector. Our universities are also among the most affordable in the world,” he said.
“Our biggest problem is that they are not meeting the growing demand of the public and private sector. On top of that, we have personnel recruiters from around the world head-hunting our brightest and best to go and work overseas, offering them amazing remuneration packages that we are often unable to match.”
De Villiers said that these graduates, who were educated at least in part with taxpayer money in the form of subsidies to universities, were desperately needed to help grow the South African economy and to help create jobs for millions of unemployed young people.
Professor Basie von Solms, director of the Centre for Cyber Security at the Academy for Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Johannesburg, said all indications were that the brain drain would intensify and that even greater numbers of highly skilled ICT experts would leave South Africa.
“South African IT graduates are among the most sought after in the world because of the high quality of education they get from our universities.”
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) are both accredited with the Chartered Institute for IT in the United Kingdom which meant that the qualifications of both universities were fully accepted in the UK and in Europe.
Von Solms holds the view that there should be at least one year of compulsory services for IT professionals upon graduation similar to the internships that medical students have to do in state hospitals.
“The bulk of all fraudulent activities that take place in local authorities and state owned enterprises in South Africa involve breaches of IT security which could be stopped dead in its tracks by skilled cyber security experts.
“Not only would graduates gain valuable experience through such internships but they would also render a valuable service to the state and by extension, to taxpayers,” he said.
He said there were huge opportunities for all IT professionals in South Africa but especially for cyber security experts where demand exceeded supply many times over.