In Europe, it keeps getting harder to find good IT personnel. Startup Tunga sees the solution in African IT talent and couples local programmers with international projects. The result is a good salary and perspective for young African people and a solution for the Western staff shortage. Tunga founder Ernesto Spruyt talks to the leading Dutch radio station BNR about why he focuses on this continent.
The entire interview (in Dutch) can be listened to online, but for our non-Dutch-speaking followers, here are some highlights.
Outsourcing can be done in many ways. In East Europe, India, Romania, and Bulgaria, IT-specialist are being put to work. Why did Ernesto choose to look for African IT talent? ‘I worked at a development aid organisation and later at a tech company. Here I discovered the shortage in the IT market, and I saw it as a solution to improve the position of young people in Africa.’
We serve companies worldwide, from startups to big corporations
Meanwhile, Tunga serves customers worldwide, especially in the Netherlands. ‘Small companies and startups, but also corporations: actually everyone who wants an app or platform to be built,’ says Ernesto.
And why do companies choose Tunga? ‘Because they want a good product via a good process. And for some companies, our social proposition is the decisive factor. We have an extraordinary story, and how we work contributes to our high level of service. We treat our personnel very well,, so they are extra motivated.
Ernesto has been to the BNR studio before to talk about Europe’s and Africa’s wish to let the African economy grow so that more people can have a future on their own continent. And would, therefore, no longer move to Europe in massive numbers. What does Ernesto think of the perspective of the young African people now?
African IT talent forms a largely untapped pool that is now being discovered.
‘Africa is enormous; I don’t know the situation of all of the countries. We, ourselves, are situated in Uganda and Nigeria, and we’re expanding to Egypt. About Uganda, I can say that youth unemployment is 83%, so there’s a little perspective. And if Africa is not doing well, it will also affect Europe.’ Ernesto emphasises that the economic perspective is not the reason behind the start of Tunga. ‘The perspective is not shiny, however, in the tech field a lot is changing. African IT talent forms a largely untapped pool that is now being discovered. And that is the reason why I chose this place.’
Investing in education
And what effect does Tunga have on the African market? ‘The effect is not that big yet, we’re still a young but the fast-growing company. We do see the role model effect. So we want to show young people that this is an attractive career path with which you can improve your financial position and career opportunities, maybe even internationally. We also train a lot of people. For this, we work together with WeAreBits, a network of IT schools that provide free IT education to youngsters. We add to that where necessary, to prepare them for the real work.’
Thus, Tunga makes sure there’s a migration in the African labour market by reassuring that people can get better chances (and take them), and at the same time, invests in new recruitment.
And it’s working, partly due to the set-up and the good salary, young people are waiting in line to start working for Tunga. ‘People who work for us earn more than what is considered reasonable for people living in Africa but less than the Dutch standards. Africans get 4 to 20 times more than they would normally get. And that makes that lots of people want to work for us, that definitely isn’t a concern for us.’
Our programmers spend their money on their own economy.
What is another positive effect of your company? ‘That would have to be the trickle-down effect. What you notice is that the programmers spend their money in their local economy. One bought witha bigger and more expensive scooter from his first money, that’s fine, of course! We don’t say anything about that. But another bought online courses for his whole family to achieve new tech skills. That is amazing to see. We stimulate this in an informal way.’
Ernesto says that there surely is competition for resources. One of them is Silicon Valley. The technological companies in California have more money to offer than Tunga and are employing African programmers. However, from his own experience, Ernesto knows that the gigantic cultural differences require a lot of management because it takes a lot of work to let the African IT talent work in their own continent or within a company. ‘It’s not easy to manage someone who is several thousands of kilometres away. It took us one and a half years until we achieved how to do it.’
Tunga teaches African IT talent to place themselves in the customer’s shoes.
He continues: ‘You must be able to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. That isn’t easy when you’ve never left your own country, and you work, for example, for a company in the Netherlands. Because What does this customer think? But our developers pick this up very quickly due to our set-up.’
At this moment, Tunga is expanding. What is being accounted for when moving forward? ‘Amongst other things, we keep an eye on political stability. That is also the reason why we’ll be in three countries. That way, we spread the risks. Uganda, Nigeria, and Egypt together have 300 million inhabitants, so we still have a lot of work to do there. And we look at the demand. We can continue in the Netherlands. But we’re also considering other countries.’