Skills shortage worries Kenya’s tech industry

Potential solutions to Kenya’s ballooning IT skills gap is one of the leading issues that will be discussed at this years AITEC East Africa ICT Summit which kicks off today in Nairobi.

The conference brings together government, business and academic representatives to map out a work plan to address the skills gap that has started worrying technology companies.

Despite the fact that Kenya is expected to release about 9,600 fresh IT graduates into the workforce this year, local companies place ‘talent’ at the top of their lists of challenges.

“There are a lot of IT graduates but you have to retrain them after hiring,” laments Kamal Budhabatti, chief executive of Craft Silicon, a financial solution provider in banking and microfinance software.


“At the senior level it is even worse. It is extremely difficult to get talented personnel to fill senior level positions and sometimes we have to hire outside Kenya,” Budhabatti added.

Companies such as mobile operator Safaricom have partnered with local higher learning institutions to offer support in growing a skilled-pool of ready-to-work telecommunications engineers by offering industrial attachments to students, advisory on the curriculum, financing infrastructure and offering students scholarships.

Kenya is witnessing soaring demand for IT professionals skilled in web-based and mobile application development, who can work with sophisticated analytics to improve business intelligence.

“The workforce IT needs keep changing. It has therefore become imperative that academic institutions actively engage with the private sector and government to be aware of what they need to incorporate into their curricula in order to prepare their graduates adequately for the job market,” said Sean Moroney, chairman of AITEC.

Kenyan higher learning institutions, however, have been on the receiving end for releasing half baked graduates into the job market.

“There is no doubt that universities and tertiary institutions are providing a large pool of graduates. The problem, however, lies in the large disparity between academia and work. Accreditation has therefore become key in this market,” said Kevit Desai, Chairman of the Linking Industry With Academia (LIWA) Trust.

LIWA has engaged in over 40 partnerships with both government and academic institutions in a direct effort to bridge the gap.

The AITEC East Africa ICT Summit 2012, themed “Smart cities > smart societies > smart enterprises” will also address other issues on cloud computing, smart cities, free and open source systems, data security and m-health.

Key participants at the conference include technology giant IBM, two of the big four professional services firms KPMG and Deloitte, as well as technology cities Ghana Cyber City and Konza Techno City which will showcase smart cities technologies and systems.

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