Is Africa becoming the go-to place for cheap skilled labor?

africa programmers

The regional wage gap in skilled labor: what happens when developed economies start replacing domestic employees with cheaper and equally skilled labour from Africa…

Before the industrial revolution, African labor was heavily exploited in the name of slavery. Later, the machines took over and the all focus moved to raw materials. I mean, something had to power the machines and the contraptions did little good on their own with nothing to process. Colonization became the name of the game, and even years after independence, the legacy of the construct continued to play out with foreign workers in Africa being “expats” while Africans abroad are “immigrant workers”. But then “boom” – technology has come to disrupt this arrangement – the digital revolution is here!

Again, things are changing in the production value chain. In one short sentence – remote working is now IN. Skill has become the new oil and as the times will have it, for a lot of jobs, you only need a computer and access to the internet to nominate yourself.

Of course, the question remains if companies will pay African skilled workers at the same rate with their domestic counterpart. I mean, car manufacturers didn’t move their factories out of America to pay Asian workers at the same rate. And last I checked, even with cases of extreme labor exploitation; the world isn’t going to forgo new iPhone in wage protest (I’m writing this on an iPhone). Amazon is being dragged in the media every day for exploiting American workers. And still, we won’t stop shopping there because you know – 24hr delivery prime service.

Andela Staff; Photo Credit – PulseNG

From the Andela model where African programmers are trained and “rented” out to companies that need their services at an “affordable” rate, it is clear to see that even in the skilled labor market – the regional pay gap is real.

And to be clear, there is no skill gap – nope. Nigerians are moving to Canada daily and filling skilled jobs positions from programming to accounting. Information is now so accessible that even degrees are obsolete. I for one work in the creative media space and I hold a pharmacy degree and an MBA in Finance lol.

So do you guys see Africa becoming the go-to place for cheap skilled labor? Will it count as exploitation if the relatively cheaper wage is still better than domestic offers?

Just some thoughts I woke to in Lagos as I tried to think of what bar I wanted to work from today…

By William Moore

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1 comment

  1. Interesting and thought provoking post. I suppose there are no easy answers – what I would think makes sense is to pay at the top end of local salaries for knowledge workers if they are working from their home country. However if they move, then salaries need to be adjusted to match the local salaries, especially if the cost of living is higher
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