Safaricom hired 400 software developers this year as the company seeks capacity to run its highly digitised business, underlining the demand for tech talent even as global digital companies set up shop in Nairobi.

The new hires are 6.4 percent of Safaricom’s 6,230 permanent, temporary, and contracted employees at the end of last year highlighting the aggressive acquisition of tech-savvy workers.

Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa said the company is expanding its technical staff as the company transforms from a connectivity business to a technology company offering a wide range of IT-linked services including an e-commerce platform on the M-Pesa Super app, loans, wealth management, and savings and insurance.

The company is now in direct competition for tech talent with global firms setting up in Nairobi including Google, Microsoft, and Amazon who are offering the tech community better perks.

“The technology side of the business is becoming bigger, the fintech side is becoming bigger we need people with skill so we have increased developers. We hired 400 new developers,” Mr Ndegwa said.

“When I came in people were saying you know agile [a push into technology] is going to reduce numbers. Actually, we have increased numbers. We have more than doubled the M-Pesa team but mostly bringing in people with a technology background, the developers, and putting them to the agile side under squads and tribes.”

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Tech developers are being sought after in the industry as local and international companies fight for top talent in the country.

American tech giant Google is investing in it’s first-ever Africa product development hub in Nairobi as part of the tech firm’s Sh115.5 billion investment on the continent over the next five years.

Google’s new investment underscores the emergence of Nairobi as a regional tech hub following the unveiling of Microsoft’s Sh3 billion office and labs for its premier engineering hub, the African Development Centre (ADC), after three years of operation in the country.

Amazon Web Services, a subsidiary of Amazon providing on-demand cloud computing platforms has also announced plans to launch an AWS local zone in Kenya in partnership with Safaricom.

AWS Local Zones are a type of infrastructure deployment that places compute, storage, database, and other select AWS services close to the large population and industrial centers.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit corporation that coordinates the domain name systems, also announced that it will set up two Root Server (IMRS) clusters, one of which will be in Kenya.

Safaricom says they rely on in-house talent and a network of over 42,000 independent developers who help Lipa na M-Pesa merchants, set up their business.

Mr Ndegwa said the telco now wants to start tapping developers from learning institutions while influencing the curriculum to have a wider pool of talent for the future.

“We want to develop an ecosystem that allows that developer community to be vibrant. In fact we will be announcing soon that we are going to be partnering with other tech companies and universities to influence curriculum, certification of developers, and also internships so that we also develop talent for the industry in the same way lawyers and accountants are developed,” he said.

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