This job skill in South Africa is being snapped up by companies in Europe

 ·6 Jul 2022

Companies globally are increasingly outsourcing their skills and moving jobs to developing economies as working remotely becomes the new norm. And in South Africa, software engineers are in demand.

According to Advaita Naidoo, managing director of the African division at Jack Hammer Global, the United States and a number of other countries are feeling the effects of the so-called great resignation – the phenomenon whereby employees simply quit their jobs instead of returning to the office.

Naidoo said that the specialist recruitment company has seen an increase in enquiries from international companies that are ‘location-agnostic’ and are fully supportive of remote working. “There were no instances of this a few years ago, but, over the past two years, at least 5% of the roles we have seen can be worked from anywhere, and this proportion is likely to grow,” she said.

OfferZen, a local developer job marketplace, said that companies in South Africa looking for local software engineers might find they have lost them to Europe – without them having to leave the country. It said that while South African developers’ skills are increasingly in demand across Europe, they no longer need to emigrate to land these jobs.

“The past two years have been a massive learning experience for everyone, not least of all companies which have discovered that much of the work that they insisted could only be done from an office, could, in actual fact, be done remotely.”

Remote isn’t new, but it has changed things

Europe has always been a popular destination for skilled South Africans looking for growth opportunities, increased earning potential and the chance to work for global companies, said OfferZen. However, the cost of moving and red tape have always stood in the way. The ability to work from anywhere has overcome this.

“Being able to choose where your ‘office’ is has opened up amazing opportunities for local developers,” said Stephen van der Heijden, VP of Community at OfferZen. “Between 2019 and 2022 we’ve seen a 14% decrease in the number of South African developers looking to move abroad and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this number continue to drop.”

For the more than 120,000 developers in South Africa, access to reliable, high-speed internet, close alignment of time zones and familiarity with remote work means that they’re ideally positioned to take advantage of opportunities in Europe.

“Our State of the Software Developer Nation Report found that nine out of 10 South African developers already work in some kind of remote setup: 51% fully remotely, 41% in a hybrid environment, and only 8% still holding down a traditional office job,” said van der Heijden.

South African developers remain in demand

He said that South African developers are in demand. Google research indicates that South Africa outranks all other countries on the continent in both the penetration rate and variety of digital skills.

Although African companies are having to compete for talent with their European counterparts in an already competitive market, the benefit for the continent is that these skills aren’t lost to local enterprises forever. Also, while this trend may be causing short-term pain for companies looking to beef up their IT teams, governments across the continent are investing heavily into ICT and STEM skills.

“Local companies may have to compete with Europe today but recruiting skills from the rest of the continent presents a real opportunity,” said van der Heijden. “And like South Africans working for European companies, these developers don’t need to be physically in South Africa to meet the needs of their employers.”

The silver lining for Africa

“The shift to remote has changed the way almost every company thinks about how they operate and South African companies need to keep up with the trend. They’re now not just competing with other local companies, but with almost every forward-thinking organisation in the world,” he said.

“This requires a fundamental rethink in how companies recruit and retain staff. Even if someone isn’t looking to move overseas, the ability to work remotely changes their expectations. You can’t have a ‘Cape Town-based job’ anymore. If the person with the skills lives in George, Hammanskraal or Hoedspruit, then that’s where the job will be based.”

If this isn’t how you’re thinking about the future of your company, now’s the time to start, he advises.

Naidoo said there has been a wide combination of available job offerings specifically focused on leadership roles in:

  • Digital transformation;
  • Artificial intelligence;
  • Data science;
  • Other related fields.

More broadly, companies have also been seeking executives in technology-enabled companies or companies that are ‘digital-first’, said Naidoo.

This shift is a recognition of the fact that, with the right mindset and enablement, many roles can be fulfilled remotely, she said. “These days, this can be done without the need to relocate physically.”

Naidoo said that remote work also acts as a powerful incentive to gather skilled talent.

“The two biggest bargaining chips right now are flexibility and career development. We would all like to earn more money, and most good companies would like to offer their loyal employees increased financial incentives.”

Read: These jobs are in-demand in South Africa as more bosses call workers back to the office

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