Melanie Butcher
Contributing writer

Virtual ‘scoping’ event spotlights Nigerian IT talent for Dutch businesses

Feb 08, 2022

An upcoming event helps aims to help Dutch tech leaders find talent and business opportunities in Nigeria, Africa’s fastest-growing tech powerhouse.

Skill shortages are preventing Dutch companies from realising their business potential. With a thriving tech ecosystem and highly-skilled pool of professionals, Nigeria offers a solution to the Netherlands’ IT talent gap.

On 17 February, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Netherlands-African Business Council, and  Unioncamere Piemonte are hosting a Virtual Scoping Mission to Nigeria, an event that will showcase the African country as a source for IT talent. The event will also highlight business opportunities in Nigeria for companies that want to expand internationally.  

The goal is for participants — Italian companies have been invited along with Dutch companies to participate — to get an understanding of  Nigeria’s booming tech sector and match with local IT professionals who specialise in the most in-demand skills.

The event features a selection of informative panels tailored to European business leaders, including a virtual tour of one of Nigeria’s top tech hubs in Lagos, an overview of the legal and financial requirements for doing business in Nigeria, and the opportunity to hear pitches and network with local talent. Participants can register free of charge.

Nigeria has more than 114,000 developers

Nigeria, with more than 114,000 developers, is emerging as a top country in Africa for sourcing tech talent. The country offers a thriving tech ecosystem with 85 national tech hubs such as incubators and accelerators, growing from just 55 in 2017. In the Netherlands, a study by NLDigital identified an urgent need for tech professionals that cannot currently be met in the local market, with developers being most in demand.

”The importance of and demand for ICT talent have increased exponentially in the Netherlands and Italy, especially in the Netherlands’ knowledge, technology, and information-based economy,” said Arnout Debucquoy at IOM, an inter-governmental organization that is part of the UN system.

“Each year, the Dutch entity UWV releases data about the labour market, and unsurprisingly, each year the ICT sector is ranked one of the highest for labour shortages: in 2019, about 40% of Dutch ICT companies experienced hindrances in their business due to a shortage of ICT talent,”  Debucquoy said.

As the Netherlands’ tech sector continues to flourish, Dutch employers expect demand for IT professionals to grow by 18% over the next five years.

“Nigeria’s digital sector is nothing short of being a true powerhouse on the African continent, constituting over 13% of the country’s GDP in 2020 compared to less than 1% in 1999. According to Jobberman, Nigeria’s leading recruitment and labour market analytics company, the country is well placed to become a source of highly skilled ICT professionals on a global scale, thanks to its large, educated and entrepreneurial youth population, low labour costs and English proficiency,”  Debucquoy said. “At the same time, the country still faces significant challenges with connectivity, infrastructure, and limited investment, which provides massive opportunities for European companies to invest and foster mutual growth.”

Nigeria offers opportunities for European businesses

Participants in the Virtual Scoping Mission event can gain insights from European companies that have already invested in key sectors such as agribusiness and renewable energy and discover opportunities to invest and collaborate. “We noticed a specific interest of companies looking for Nigerian talent to help them establish a local presence in the country. Hiring and training people with both the right skills and strong knowledge of the local context, often proves to be the key to successful international expansion,” Debucquoy said. “We recently matched a Dutch agritech company with our Nigerian candidate, Chinedu – after a short relocation for his training, he went back to Nigeria to help the company expand its business. The Virtual Scoping Mission is the ideal way for companies to discover the vast opportunities in the Nigerian tech industry, as well as the value of international recruitment.”

The virtual scoping mission is part of the MATCH Project, a 3-year pilot programme that helps to close the talent gap by providing European companies with highly-skilled candidates from Nigeria and Senegal. Businesses in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Italy share their hiring needs and open positions, and the MATCH team identifies the strongest candidates through a rigorous evaluation process.

The project offers extensive support to hiring companies, helping them navigate local legal frameworks with coaching sessions, offering referrals to relevant services in the Netherlands, providing education on cultural differences, and on-boarding new employees. Through the MATCH Project and the Virtual Scoping Mission, companies are connected directly to top talent, free of charge, and African professionals secure positions offering new skills and experience that contribute to the development of their communities.

Placement programme emphasizes remote work

Since the programme’s launch in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the scope of IOM’s activities connecting local talent with European businesses, to emphasise remote work. Tech talent will be recruited virtually through the scoping mission and the MATCH Project, and IOM will assist with creating remote working arrangements for successful candidates while pandemic regulations limit migration between countries.

Fortunately, the Netherlands is one of the most prepared countries for adapting to remote work, with more than 60% of employees in knowledge-intensive business services in the Netherlands already teleworking before the pandemic, and 88% of Dutch organisations working towards developing better part-time or permanent teleworking strategies. With work requiring a high degree of autonomy and advanced IT skills, the tech industry is particularly well-positioned to shift to remote work indefinitely.

“Travel restrictions, employment uncertainty, and shifts in working modalities are all challenges that we have faced. Fortunately, employers are increasingly agile toward virtual and remote work, especially in the ICT sector, which has allowed us to promote the recruitment of Nigerian and Senegalese nationals without physically relocating staff – for some companies, remote work is actually the preferred option,” Debucquoy said.

“Ultimately, companies realise that the regardless of the pandemic, ICT skills are desperately needed in Europe,” Debucquoy  added, listing cybersecurity, business intelligence, data science, and app development skills as most in demand in the Netherlands today.

“European countries are forced to look beyond their traditional labour markets to find skilled ICT talent. That’s why the Virtual Scoping Mission to Nigeria aims to highlight the potential of Nigeria’s ICT talent pool for Dutch and Italian companies faced with increasing domestic labour shortages, in addition to the exciting business opportunities that lie in the Nigerian ICT sector,” Debucquoy said. What advice can the organisation offer to investors and business leaders that are considering the Nigerian market for the first time? “Don’t get left behind.”