South Africans are increasingly choosing to take their skills abroad, while the allure of the US dollar is also a growing trend in the country, says online retailer Takealot, which employs in excess of 2,000 people in numerous roles.
Speaking during an online roundtable event ahead of the Insaka eCommerce Summit, heads of industry in the South African e-commerce space pointed to a scarcity of highly skilled South Africans in the tech industry.
“We are very much aware that we are still a small component of the market and I think as awareness grows, people will be attracted to e-commerce – so when it comes to the commercial, sales and marketing aspects of the business, it’s not that difficult to find skilled people,” said Ryan Ferreira, head of retail and marketplace at Takealot.
“Where the difficulty sits is in the engineering space – it’s highly competitive in the software engineering space; not only are you competing with the likes of big businesses in South Africa, but people are also moving offshore,” he said, adding that this is something to keep an eye on.
Justin Drennan, the co-founder of Parcel Ninja, a cloud-based warehousing and delivery solution for e-commerce stores – said that the e-commerce space is multi-dimensional, and as a result, when hiring, a company can no longer use a single individual who can complete numerous tasks. He said that deep knowledge and research skills are needed.
For South Africa’s e-commerce sector to grow, specialists in engineering, marketing, and customer retention are required, he said.
While South Africa has quite a large number of skilled, world-class, e-commerce people, larger retailers and software companies, both local and international, are head-hunting them, said Drennan.
“If you look for example at the number of people employed in Cape Town by international organisations, large retailers and software service businesses, there is pressure being put on finding the up and coming individuals who are competent in e-commerce skills,” he said.
This comes as global tech giant Amazon goes on mass hiring sprees – such as in 2020 where they offered 3,000 work-from-home jobs which included IT Support technician positions, software development engineers and senior solutions architects.
The lack of skills is not limited to tech jobs. Call centres and accounting services have all seen South Africans shifting to outsourcing work, added Drennan.
South Africa has historically been favoured as a developing outsourcing industry and in 2020 was voted the second most attractive Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) location in the world. McKinsey & Company noted that between 2020 and 2023, they expect the sector to grow roughly three per cent per annum, in line with global growth rates.
Drennan said that South Africa does not lack skilled workers, they are just being attracted by international organisations. And as the country continues to grow as a location for outsourcing, domestic businesses will be challenged to find skilled employees.
Data from BrandMapp showed that almost a third of South Africans would like to emigrate in the next five years, citing a host of reasons including improved economic prospects, moving away from a country dealing with stagnant growth, rising living costs, safety concerns, and rampant corruption.