Africa sees high demand for flexible, freelance tech talent

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 25 Mar 2024
African candidates are also earning the second highest freelance day rate after Southeast Asia.
African candidates are also earning the second highest freelance day rate after Southeast Asia.

In the last year, Africa has seen a surge in demand for non-permanent/short-term or freelance tech talent from organisations, as they move to more agile and flexible workforce models.

This is one of the key findings from the third annual Talent-On-Demand report, compiled by Outsized, an on-demand talent platform for job seekers, agencies and employers that operates in Africa, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

Outsized specialises in providing full-time, independent (or freelance) professionals to a range of industries, including consulting, banking, insurance, and other sectors.

The research is based on proprietary data collected from its platform, focusing on hiring trends across the three regions for the year 2023, according to the company.

It shows the competition for talent in Africa is intensifying, with short-term or flexible skills in the areas of technology implementation, business analytics and data visualisation, being the most sought after.

Globally, the most popular skills during the period were project management, strategy, and digital transformation.

As the landscape of work continues to evolve rapidly, shaped by ongoing economic fluctuations and technological advancements, the agility provided by flexible workforce models is not just an asset but a necessity, it says.

“Africa saw another year of exceptional talent growth in 2023, with an 83% increase in freelancer registrations across regions. But demand for talent is fierce,” says Johann van Niekerk, global CEO and MD Africa for Outsized.

“Employing agile talent is often more economical than maintaining a sizable permanent workforce, particularly for project-based, or fluctuating workloads. It allows organisations to scale their workforce up or down as needed, aligning human resource costs closely with actual business needs.”

According to Outsized, top tech skills sought by firms included project management, business transformation, business intelligence and agile methodologies.

Johann van Niekerk, Global CEO and MD Africa for Outsized.
Johann van Niekerk, Global CEO and MD Africa for Outsized.

On the data front, data analytics, and engineering, business intelligence and data science led demand.

Well-remunerated contracts

In 2024, companies are anticipated to further progress towards fostering a more inclusive and diverse workforce as they increasingly recognise the value of hiring non-permanent employees in accessing specialised expertise and execution capabilities, while maintaining operational flexibility and managing fixed costs.

“We predict a shift towards a more holistic approach to agile talent. Employers will not only leverage independent contractors for specific projects but instead see them as a competitive advantage to be used at scale, proactively. A critical aspect will be to create collaborative and inclusive work environments that harness the full potential of both permanent and independent professionals,” adds Niclas Thelander, founder and CMO of Outsized.

At the same time, the company says it is seeing an increasing number of professionals who are transitioning to non-permanent employment for the first time and those who are looking for flexible, well-remunerated contracts.

African freelancers are among the most experienced in the regions covered by Outsized, with candidates having an average of 9.5 years of experience.

The report also provides a breakdown of what freelancers earned in 2023, with details of the average day rates for the top ten skills and the average day rate for each region.

The highest day rates were earned by people with digital transformation skills, who earned an average of $392 (approximately R7 400) per day.

Technology implementation and business analytics rounded out the top three highest paid skills.

“African candidates are also earning the second highest day rate at $316, outpacing India and below the $544 average day rate earned in Southeast Asia.”