With the rapid and sustained growth of the fintech sector in East Africa, in particular in Kenya, there has been a sharp rise in demand for skilled leaders to fill positions, and companies are looking globally – and to South Africa specifically – in their talent search.
“Because of the limited supply of leaders who have a strong technical background in fintech disciplines including data science, analytics and data engineering, but who also have experience working in Africa, South Africa is considered to be a great pool from which to fish when filling these roles,” says Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, CEO of top local and continental search firm Jack Hammer.
She says there is tremendous opportunity and growth in East Africa, because of the development of a unique eco-system primarily leveraged by mobile money services such as MPesa. These services are very advanced in the region, because challenges in the formal banking sector led to the development of services allowing for money to be transferred through alternative channels.
“As a result, demand for capable leaders in this market now outstrips supply. Our multinational clients in Kenya are clear that while there is an impressive market of data engineers in Nairobi at junior-to-mid level, finding senior leaders in this field is a major challenge.”
That means that companies are looking outside of the region – to locals who are currently abroad, as well as executives willing to relocate from around the globe, including from New York, San Francisco, Berlin, France, and other tech hubs.
But because of the challenges associated with relocating, such as cost and an understanding of local contexts, South African professionals are in very high demand.
“Of key importance, in addition to technical capacity, is the need for leaders to have regional and cultural experience. We have seen that it is very difficult for someone working in highly developed markets such as in the US and Europe, to lead and develop from scratch technical innovation without experience working in Africa. Therefore, those leaders who have had some kind of ‘tour of duty’ on the continent, and who can show a track record working in emerging markets particularly in Africa, are highly sought after,” says Goodman-Bhyat.
She says the growth of this new eco-system is as a result of new technologies enabling the delivery of products and services to consumers who previously didn’t have access to them because of a lack of infrastructure, and because of the increasing ability to offer financing solutions.
“Essentially, this growth is riding on the development of the financial technology value chain, giving rise to a massive new industry all on its own. But at this stage, the continued delivery of good quality products and services relies on companies and their leaders gaining and leveraging strong market insights and business intelligence.” And this is why access to high quality data is the new gold, she says.
“Hence the search is on for established leaders in the data science and credit risk analytics space, who can adapt their knowledge into new markets. Companies want people with the ability to establish – not just manage – responses to challenges and opportunities unique to emerging markets.”