Kenyan firms hit as Microsoft, Google talent war raises pay

Local Kenyan companies are struggling to recruit and retain key talent as US tech titans, led by Microsoft, Amazon and Google, tilt the market in their favour with high salaries and attractive employment terms.

The three multinationals have increased their presence in East Africa with Kenya as their hub, triggering an aggressive hiring spree that has seen them pay up to Ksh1.8 million ($15,037) monthly for principal tech specialists.

The multinationals are also paying around Ksh300,000 ($2,506) to junior tech developers, Ksh500,000 ($4,177) for mid-level techies and between Ksh800,000 ($6,683) and Ksh1.3 million ($10,860) for lead and senior roles.

Smaller companies in the area such as Wasoko, Flocash, Twiga foods, Lori Systems, and Sendy, who had invested in and trained young engineers, have been swiftly outbid.

But while the talent war is resulting in higher compensation for Kenya’s techies, it is disrupting the business plans for local firms and smaller foreign technology companies.

Major telcos and banks, long considered the best-paying organizations for techies in Kenya, are also losing their top talent to Big Tech.

“You know, what’s happening in this market across all of us. We have some people called Microsoft, Amazon, Google who are just mopping up our developers,” said Patricia Ithau, the chief executive officer of WPP Scangroup.

“We have a programme we recruit from the university two, three months, they come in from college, and you offer them a hundred. Google tells them two hundred, there’s nothing you’re going to do. They’re going to go. And then they go from Google. Microsoft offers them three hundred, they’ll move. So until we start creating a lot more talent, it is the way of the world.”

Global tech giants have been increasing investment on the continent in recent years to take advantage of growing economies with rising access rates to the Internet by a youthful population.

They are using Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria as their launch pads for a bigger stake of Africa.

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