Africa's Great Desktop Migration

And The Startup In The Middle Of It

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Hey there! Welcome to this edition of Tech Safari.

Today, we get to do two things we love:

  1. Talk about one of the most game-changing trends of our time in the Future of Work: The Great Desktop Migration.

  2. Tell the story of one of our favourite African startups.

Alright, let’s dive in!

By 2050, a quarter of the planet’s population will be African.

And as the world greys, Africa is getting younger.

Africa has a median age of just 19, meaning more people are hustling to make money.

But are the jobs keeping up?

Far from it.

Every year, about 10-12 million young Africans enter the labour market.

But only 3 million formal jobs are created annually.

So, while Africa is formally educated, it’s informally employed.

Those who miss out on formal jobs (like healthcare, accounting, or law) turn to the informal market, starting small businesses or taking on menial jobs to survive.

Informal workers holding signs for jobs in Cape Town, South Africa

Currently, these informal jobs make up nearly 83% of employment on the continent.

But they’re inconsistent, pay poorly, and don't give any safety net for retirement.

That’s a highway to financial instability.

So if you’re a young, educated African who’s hungry for more, it feels like there’s only one route left:

Packing up and leaving for jobs overseas

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the ‘Japa Wave’ is in full swing.

‘Japa’ means to flee, and it refers to the trend of many Nigerian professionals jetting off for better opportunities abroad.

From June 2022 to June 2023, as many as 141,000 Nigerians moved to the UK.

And it’s not just Nigeria.

In 2019, about 2.1 million Africans lived in the US – making up 5% of the foreign-born population.

Why? To get better jobs.

Migration patterns for Africa over the past few decades

But if you hold an African passport, it’ll take a long time before you hear your plane screeching down that runway.

Visa Limbo estimates that if you’re from Nigeria, it takes 458 days to get an interview for a US visa.

In Uganda, it’s 425 days, and in Benin, it’s 370.

So, Africa has an oversupply of talent and an undersupply of jobs.

And the continent’s best talent is migrating for better jobs and to improve their quality of life. Yet moving countries is no easy trip.

But thanks to a growing space called tech - we’re starting to see things change.

Unlike traditional industries (like healthcare, law, and architecture) that need you in person - the tech industry brings jobs that you can do anywhere.

And with these tech jobs sitting online for the right talent, we’re witnessing a shift in how African talent works:

The Great Desktop Migration

As the virtual job market grows, talent in emerging markets don’t need to physically migrate to change their lives.

They can move abroad from the comfort of their laptop. They can desktop migrate.

Now, anyone in the world is 'on the map' for employment.

No need for a visa, or leaving your home or your family. All you need?

  • A stable internet connection

  • A laptop

  • The right skills

And it's not just technical tech roles that can make the most of desktop migration.

Non-technical roles, like product managers, salespeople, copywriters, customer success roles, investment analysts, and graphic designers are in high demand but lack high-quality talent.

Good thing, non-technical jobs need less math and science expertise than technical ones like software development.

So you can easily pivot to them regardless of your background.

And one startup is at the centre of bridging the skills gap for non-technical roles in Africa:

Cue CatalyzU

At 22, Luke Mostert, a South African native, broke into Venture Capital at Green House Capital in Lagos, Nigeria.

A few years later, at the tail end of 2021, he teamed up with a friend, Karl Nchite - who had also broken into VC - to help others do the same.

They put together a community of the best African VCs under 35 in a Slack group and called it Young African Catalysts.

Co-founders Luke and Karl, with fellow ‘Young African Catalysts’ – Anthony Catt, Lesego Tladinyane, Jill Curr, and Egla Ntumba

And over time, a few things happened:

Talent who wanted to get into VC approached them, asking for help.

And VCs who wanted to hire came knocking.

Luke and Karl realised they were onto something.

So they got help of a friend and talent veteran to look deeper.

It was none other than Iyinoluwa Aboyeji (also known as ‘E’), who built Andela into a unicorn.

Andela trains African software developers and deploys them across the world.

As E said, “After Andela’s success, other startups followed suit to train African technical talent for global jobs. But no one has built pathways for non-technical talent in Africa.”

Far left, Karl Nchite; centre, Luke Mostert; far right, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji

Two things crystallised for Luke and Karl:

  1. African talent was hungry to break into tech – a booming industry.

  2. Non-technical talent is in big demand, but majorly underserved.

With that realisation, they began their mission of training young Africans with non-technical skills and then connecting them to startup roles across the globe.

And with the change in focus, they changed their name too – from Young African Catalysts to CatalyzU.

CatalyzU Co-founders Luke Mostert and Karl Nchite

They raised capital from Techstars Toronto, Future Africa, Jobtech Alliance (by Mercy Corps and BFA Global), and executives at Uber, Tencent, and Shortlist Professionals to name a few.

And today, CatalyzU trains young Africans for non-technical roles, like product managers, marketers, and investment analysts.

And remember desktop migration?

Well, CatalyzU is right in the middle of helping young Africans make their virtual move.

Like Adesola

Adesola Adesanya is from Nigeria – a country where 65% of young people don’t have jobs.

Adesola Adesanya – a former CatalyzU VC fellow

After completing her history and international relations degree, Adesola was in the same situation.

So she started a bakery to make ends meet - but when it struggled to pick up, Adesola started exploring other options.

That’s when she became curious about venture capital and stumbled on CatalyzU’s Venture Capital Fellowship - a three-month program that opened big doors into the VC world.

CatalyzU connected her to a network of 60+ VCs across Africa - and one of those connections was to Founders Factory Africa, a renowned venture builder working across the UK and Africa.

The Founders Factory Africa team in South Africa

That intro through CatalyzU landed her a role as a scout at Founders Factory Africa.

And with the job change came a virtual move.

Adesola is still based in Nigeria, but she's virtually moved to South Africa, where Founders Factory Africa is based.

With the Naira losing value fast and living costs soaring, the virtual move has seen her fortunes improve with it.

As Adesola explained, “I’m excited for my first-ever salary in dollars. I believe it will shield me from the instability of the Naira and give me a better shot at a more secure financial future.”

Africa’s workforce is ready, and desktop migration is here

Moving countries used to be the most promising way to find a better job.

But today, desktop migration is here – the easiest way to change your life from behind your laptop.

Young Africans with the right skills, drive, and internet access are in the best position to take advantage of this, and Adesola is just one person who has desktop migrated.

CatalyzU is at the centre of this movement.

And as Luke, co-founder of CatalyzU tells us, “We’re on a mission to help more talent, like Adesola, land jobs in tech and migrate virtually to a better future.”

P.S. CatalyzU just launched applications for their Q1 Fellowships, aimed at training aspiring venture capitalists, startup founders, and startup employees.

Tech Safari has an exclusive Referral Code too – TECHSAFARI10 – that will save you 10% if you’re accepted. Save your spot here.

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