Why Africa?

Africa is a continent. A very large continent. And it is not appropriate to generalize about the whole of Africa. Nevertheless, there are characteristics that seem to apply to the entire continent. Take, for example, the phenomenon of population rejuvenation versus aging, which we see in many other parts of the world. Or consider the drive among young adults to prove themselves and seek affiliation with Western prosperity. This transformation translates into significant economic growth in several African countries, which in turn affects neighbouring ones.

Indeed, this situation has two distinct facets. On one hand, there are young people who perceive possibilities to contribute to their own countries and enthusiastically grasp those opportunities. On the other hand, there are less fortunate individuals who, fueled by desperation, seek asylum in Europe as refugees. Regardless of the circumstances, these developments have sparked my contemplation. Since 2004, I have been involved in outsourcing and outstaffing IT activities from Romania and Poland. This leads me to ponder: Could Africa potentially offer a solution to the anticipated challenges of an aging population and labor market shortages in Europe?

The situation is not inherently favorable. Africa, being a continent outside Europe, possesses a distinct culture. One might wonder about the work ethic in this context. However, I encountered comparable challenges in my past work in Eastern Europe. At that time, there were frequent reports about Romanian gangs engaging in card skimming, a form of bank card fraud where cards are duplicated to withdraw money from accounts. I vividly recall this because mentioning our highly skilled IT developers in Romania to potential clients often carried negative connotations. Fortunately, this perception changed swiftly. 

More and more companies recognized the added value of expanding their IT capacity to Eastern Europe. And on-site, I saw furniture, offices, and the whole streetscape change. In 2005, there were still horse carts and only Dacia model 1300 cars. By 2020, there was no trace of that anymore. Highly educated young people had developed themselves, were earning well, driving luxury lease cars, and buying nice apartments in the city center. Some of the early developers who worked for us successfully started their own IT businesses. 

However, a drawback of this success was that competing solely on price became less straightforward. Nevertheless, this was acceptable. The rise in costs appeared to correlate with the increasing trust in exceptional quality and availability. Furthermore, it was a foreseeable progression. Nonetheless, availability gradually became more challenging. Similar to other places, the labor market in Romania experienced tightness.

I am no longer involved with or in Romania. So, I have come up with the idea that Africa could potentially be a new source for the labor needs in Europe. I understand that in the IT domain, this is easier to achieve than, let's say, in healthcare or construction. But there is more than meets the eye. 

I firmly believe that fostering collaboration between African and Dutch developers will yield more than just software products. It fosters mutual trust and familiarity, eradicating unwarranted mistrust and, ultimately, opening new avenues. It allows for regulated labor flows from Africa to Europe, surpassing the challenges posed by current refugee migration. This concept extends to other sectors as well, where remote work may not be feasible. After all, unfamiliarity breeds contempt, and now we have the opportunity to address it. Moreover, success in one sector in Africa, such as IT in this case, creates opportunities for others. Economic growth in one industry has a ripple effect, benefiting diverse sectors ranging from cleaning, retail, and hospitality to services and construction. This collective progress contributes significantly to curtailing undesirable migration.

We have discovered two highly motivated and exceptionally talented young individuals in Nairobi, who possess the ambition to carve out their own path. These two individuals remind me of the early days in Romania, where potential and determination converged. I eagerly anticipate joining forces with them to establish an IT outsourcing company along the Europe-Africa axis. Together, we aim to embark on an exciting journey of growth and opportunity.