11.12.2023 - Startups, Technology

Baltic countries join forces to attract tech talent

The second edition of the Digital Explorers, an ICT-focused knowledge and talent exchange initiative, has launched. As part of the programme, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are partnering with Kenya, Nigeria and Armenia to attract 85 digital talents to tech companies in the Baltics.

Europe needs to attract and retain talent to power a strong digital economy. In recent years, the European Union (EU) international partnership agenda has started to focus on finding ways to promote skills development in order to fill the demand for specialists and to increase innovation and competitiveness both inside the EU and in partner countries around the globe. Digital Explorers has been at the forefront of this momentum by successfully implementing the first talent partnership pilot between Lithuania and Nigeria in 2019-2022. This year it is scaling to new countries.

The second edition of Digital Explorers plans to relocate 85 digital talents to Baltic front-runner tech companies through three specialised tracks (Professionals, Trainees, Ambassadors) and offer tailored training and career advancement opportunities to 65 local IT specialists.

Unexpected connections, shared challenges

One of the guiding principles and success factors behind Digital Explorers is its close cooperation with IT companies and government institutions. The project board members – Mr. Fola Olatunji-David (Founding Partner at Kickoff Africa, and an Advisor to the Nigerian Minister for Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy) and Mr.  George Njuguna Kamau (CIO of Safaricom, Africa’s largest telecommunications company) – both noted that there are numerous unexpected similarities between the African and Baltic ICT ecosystems.

“I remember when my boss at the time told me to go check out Estonia for digital government solutions and I was like… “where is that?!”,” Njuguna Kamau recalled. “But when I got there, I was so inspired by the passion for e-governance solutions, startups and robotics and took a lot of the knowledge back home.”

Latvian Startup Association Startin.LV CEO Olga Barreto- Goncalves said that while Baltics´ digital success stories are renowned, talents are needed to keep the narrative progressing.

“The three Baltic countries have around 6.3 million people and a whopping 3000 startups, which is one of the highest per-capita figures in the world. But the rosy picture is tainted by the lack of talent to fill the needs in the tech sector,” Barreto- Goncalves laid out.

Olatunji-David noted that a similar challenge exists in Nigeria: “We are lacking high-tech talent, so the government has started taking action and the drive is very much there.” He said that talent is becoming Nigeria’s new “oil” as the country is eagerly investing in training  and outsourcing to fill the growing needs in the global technology sector.

Njuguna Kamau said that Kenya is also jumping over different hurdles  to grow its talent base. “Five years ago, when big tech started setting up in Kenya there was suddenly a huge hunt for talent and it seemed that the small pool of highly skilled people  had all been quickly absorbed by Microsoft,” Njuguna Kamau said. The lack of senior talent is only solved by adequate and market-oriented training, he noted. “So, we turned to visiting universities and seeing that they are not producing graduates with sufficient skillsets, therefore we started actively discussing and pushing for the changes needed in the curricula.”

Migration is always circular

Besides relocation opportunities, the new iteration of Digital Explorers has set out to offer traineeships in partner countries so that talents can receive tailored and high-quality training with a local market fit. “In order to respond to the rapid changes in the world and for the partnership to be truly beneficial for all parties, we should innovate, not only in the digital transition, but also in the talent partnership, which is against  brain drain, but supports brain gain, so the skills and abilities of people in the target countries increase,” said Kristi Kulu, Programme Manager for Education at the Estonian Centre for International Development (ESTDEV).

“Migration is a natural phenomenon,” Olatunji-David noted and said that after placing trust in a candidate and offering life-changing chances to work and experience life abroad, specialists give back in multiple ways by investing in Nigerian companies, mentoring and amplifying the growth of the tech sector. Digital Explorers offers exactly this, builds new experiences together with companies and talents, at the same time expands business horizons.

“I like the verb exploring, central to the name of this project, as it’s about being open to opportunities and not knowing what you´ll find. It is the backbone of innovation,” Njuguna Kamau concluded.

In 2023-2026, the Digital Explorers programme is implemented by a well-equipped consortium of Lithuanian think-and-do-tank OSMOS Global Partnerships, ESTDEV and Latvian Startup Association Startin.LV.

Source: Press release (www.labsoflatvia.com)
Photo by Marvin Meyer via Unsplash.com

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