While Ghana’s IT sector is growing rapidly, and the government is emphasising its importance to the future health of the economy, it currently suffers from a shortage of qualified labour. As such, the government and the private sector are turning their attention to human resources development.
The administration of President Nana Akufo-Addo has placed IT at the centre of its plans for economic development. However, while the sector has been recording double-digit growth in recent times, far outstripping the performance of the Ghanaian economy as a whole, future momentum could be slowed by a lack of qualified workers.
“The challenge is to find more coders and developers. Technical jobs are currently outsourced,” Regina Honu, CEO of Soronko Solutions, told OBG.
The local education system is struggling to produce graduates who can compete in the global IT marketplace. “The issue of qualified personnel is a recurring one. Academia is not responsive to the obvious needs of the labour market,” Ernest Brown, executive director of Ghana-based internet service provider Zipnet, told OBG.
Several players are turning to vocational training to bridge the gap between the education system and the demands of IT industry. Soronko Solutions, for example, has established its own academy, with an offering that includes a six-to-eight-week introductory programme for children that costs $60 and more specific courses aimed at university students. Honu hopes the initiative will help shift attitudes in the local market. “It is difficult to find committed, skilled people that can deliver,” she told OBG.
This is a problem across the IT industry. There is huge demand for Ghanaian labour, not least because it is less expensive than recruiting from the international market.
A salary for a basic developer starts at approximately $250 per month. However, the low cost is often accompanied by a limited skill set, and there is a scarcity of developers and coders that have a broad range of capabilities.
The government has recently acknowledged this challenge. In July 2017 the minister of communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, told local press that the administration plans to focus on IT skills development for young Ghanaians. While details of an IT education strategy have yet to be articulated, there is an expectation that any new initiative would include coding classes.
In the interim, while the government formulates a strategy for human resource development, the private sector is leading the way in building local skills in IT. “Companies are looking for people who can innovate. If we are to ensure that Africa is on the forefront of digital transformation and not just a consumer of technology, skills development is critical,” Derek Appiah, country manager for Microsoft Ghana, told local press. “Programming is an exciting industry to be in, with lots of areas of specialisation, and more jobs being created each year.”
As part of the development process, Microsoft has brought its AppFactory to the country in conjunction with Mobile Web Ghana. The four-month fully sponsored programme will give up to 40 recent graduates access to mentors as they learn how to develop apps. Those completing the programme can either launch their own businesses or gain placements with affiliate organisations.
Another company working to give graduates experience is Airtel Ghana, which has partnered with CoderDojo – an international organisation focused on computer programming courses – to train schoolchildren in coding.
Such schemes will be crucial if the sector is to reach its full potential, and both the public and private sectors will play a key role in preparing young Ghanaians for the new technology-driven economy.