AI changes the world and SA’s tech jobs market

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 07 Mar 2024
AI is becoming more commonly integrated into the South African business world.
AI is becoming more commonly integrated into the South African business world.

While the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is anticipated to ultimately replace many jobs, a new South African jobs market outlook shows the emerging tech has spurred higher demand for AI specialists and professionals over the past 12 months.

This is one of the key findings of the first edition of online jobs portal Pnet’s monthly Job Market Trends report, released this week.

The report reviews SA’s hiring activity, as well as regional job trends, based on Pnet’s online job advertisement data and aggregated candidate data, sourced from online recruitment platform The Stepstone Group South Africa.

In each edition, the report will analyse job posts and job sectors that have been most in demand, providing snapshots of specific job sectors, unpacking demographic data to guide recruiters in recruitment planning and giving job-seekers a view of what is happening in the local job market.

According to the report, AI is becoming more commonly integrated into the South African business world, either as part of product and service offerings for customers, or internally. As a result of this rising trend, AI specialists and professionals are increasingly sought-after by organisations across various sectors.

Observing the trend over the last 12 months, the top three in-demand AI roles are data scientist (29%), data analyst (24%) and data engineer (16%).

Other job roles where AI skills are in demand are software developer (11%), machine learning specialist (9%), business analyst (4%), sales professional (4%) and IT architect (3%), according to Pnet.

“AI is no longer just a buzzword…it is changing the world, especially the business world, at an exponential rate,” says Anja Bates, head of data at Pnet. “Although many people are still wary of AI, the fact is that most of us already use it on daily basis.

“As much as AI might seem to be a distant and mysterious technology, we have already started embracing it and reaping the benefits in our everyday lives.

“Analysing vacancies allocated to AI candidates, it is apparent in the report that strong skills in programming, data science, statistics, analytics and machine learning are crucial in the AI space.”

The distribution of AI job roles over the last 12 months.
The distribution of AI job roles over the last 12 months.

Providing examples of how AI is used by ordinary South Africans daily, Bates points to personalised online advertising, online search engines like Google, chatbots/digital assistants like Siri and Waze, and online shopping.

According to the 2024 South Africa Report: State of the Software Developer Nationreleased by developer hiring marketplace OfferZen last month, AI is shaking up the software developer market in SA, with the majority of surveyed software developers ranking it as their most preferred industry.

While hiring among SA’s software developers dropped by 5% over the last 12 months, AI is expected to reinvigorate job placements in the industry, according to OfferZen.

Anja Bates, head of data at Pnet.
Anja Bates, head of data at Pnet.

An International Monetary Fund report released in January reveals AI is set to have a ripple effect through the global economy, impacting 40% of jobs in emerging markets, and 26% of jobs in low-income countries. It further reveals that half of the jobs impacted by AI will be negatively affected, while the rest may significantly benefit from enhanced productivity gains due to AI.

AI adoption in SA is still at lower levels compared to global counterparts, but the rapidly-evolving landscape is seeing more firms recognise AI’s important role in taking efficiency to new levels and boosting productivity, leading to increased demand for emerging skills locally, notes Pnet.

Over the last year, SA saw the release of OpenAI-developed chatbot, ChatGPT, followed by a slew of similar open source AI models. More advances in AI tools and further proliferation are expected this year, according to experts.

Generative AI and AI are expected to become transformative technologies in SA, with benefits to be felt in multiple sectors, particularly healthcare, education, financial and agriculture. This is according to a research report compiled by global consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, in partnership with Microsoft SA and Wits Business School.

SA’s AI market is projected to reach $3.18 billion in 2024, according to research firm Statista. The compound annual growth rate is forecast to reach 18.35% between 2024 and 2030, resulting in a $8.74 billion market by 2030 in SA.

“Over the past five years, there has been a staggering 182% increase in AI vacancies,” says Bates.

Gauteng has seen the most AI employment opportunities (63%), followed by the Western Cape (19%) and a number of local AI opportunities that don’t reflect any specific geographic location (8%), notes Pnet.

The top five in-demand AI skills in South Africa.
The top five in-demand AI skills in South Africa.