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Germany Taps Into Africa’s IT Sector to Fill Labor Gap

German companies are training young Africans to become IT experts, also for the German market. The plan hopes to reduce the shortage of skilled workers in Germany and give Africans a perspective in their home countries.

Augustine Normanyo was unemployed for months after completing his IT studies in Ghana’s capital Accra. “After my studies I looked for a job in the tech industry,” Normanyo told DW. But due to his lack of practical experience, he had no success.

Until a friend introduced him to the company AmaliTech. Now, a year later, Normanyo is almost finished with his advanced training as a software engineer. “At the moment, my goal is to work in the service center and further develop my skills.”

AmaliTech offers graduates paid jobs that provide them with income. As a result, some of them can get a position in the German market without leaving Ghana.

The tech company, headquartered in Cologne, Germany, brings skilled workers from its two locations in Ghana and Rwanda with local and international customers. As a result, the next generation of technology experts is being built up in Africa, and in the future, it will offer Germany a way out of the shortage of skilled workers in the IT sector. 

An exemplary model for the IT sector

“I think once you get a new opportunity at Amalitech, you can make it in any technology field in the world,” said Bilal Abubakari, who was recruited as an engineering information technology student when he met Amalitech’s talent scouts on campus.

After graduation, he immediately joined the IT company and is enthusiastic about professionalism. “They give a very good insight into the industry sector, so you really know what’s going on,” Abubakari told DW.

According to economist Eckhardt Bode of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, this model should set a precedent. “The African continent offers great potential to reduce the local labor shortage,” Bode told DW.

“Be it by outsourcing work that cannot be done in Germany because of the lack of labor, as practiced by the company Amalitech, or through immigration of skilled workers from Africa.”

Is Germany ready to welcome African workers?

Bode said there needs to be a greater change in how German society perceives immigrants. “Are we Germans really willing to accept immigration?” Bode asked.

He warned that the shortage of skilled workers or labor could become a brake on growth and prosperity in Germany in the future, stressing that Berlin needed to take more decisive countermeasures than in the past.

“Without greater immigration of workers, we will, in all probability, not be able to solve this brake on prosperity.”

With increasing digitization, the tech sector is particularly affected. Many IT projects in German public administrations do not function exceptionally well.

Germany’s companies currently lack 137,000 IT experts across all sectors, reports the digital industry association Bitkom. 

A win-win for Africa and Germany

But the IT market offers a win-win situation for both sides through the possibility of being trained and working digitally from anywhere in the world. That’s a good prospect for young Africans and German companies.

“In this way, the skilled labor base is strengthened globally to reduce harmful effects such as brain drain,” Najim Azahaf, a migration expert at the Bertelsmann Foundation, told DW.

Internationally, there are many pilot projects with different models, for example, in Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America. But according to Azahaf, there is a need to look more closely at countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where the initial hurdles may be somewhat greater, but the potential for all sides is all the greater.

Certain prejudices of investors and the question of compatibility often stand in the way, the migration expert added.

Seizing the opportunity in Africa  

Africa has a demographic surplus of young people. Azahaf is convinced that this opportunity must be seized and that there are promising approaches in North Africa in Tunisia and Morocco.

However, many talented young people in South and East Africa work as software developers and programmers for German and European customers. In 2019, Anja Schlösser founded the company Code of Africa in Hamburg to build flexible and well-trained young teams in East Africa.

Ten full-time employees now work at the company’s headquarters in Rwanda, plus 40 additional IT staff are available for services from the networks in Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Our focus is that the young people do not emigrate but can build a sustainable life for themselves in East Africa and secure a working income,” Schlösser told DW.

Pioneering: AmaliTech’s recipe for success

Salami Suleiman, a trainer at Amalitech, is convinced that his trainees can succeed. “We know that the employees with whom we started the service center and who now work for us are developing and taking on leadership positions,” Suleiman said.

AmaliTech offers structure and goes on a “learning journey” with beginners. So-called “soft skills” also play an essential role, Suleiman said, adding that communication, adaptability, flexibility, and the ability to work in a team are vital too.

“In some ways, these skills have become almost more important than technical skills.” In his opinion, the education system has so far short-changed that.

IT specialists Bilal Abubakari and Augustine Normanyo plan to stay in Ghana for now. Abubakari hopes to work on a client project in the future.”If I stay at Amalitech, I can follow this path, and in ten years I could then look at other markets, for example in Europe.”

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