The need for agility, cost flexibility, and access to critical skills became increasingly important in the 2023 talent landscape.

As a result, Outsized, an on-demand talent platform that operates in Africa, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, has seen a surge of demand for independent skilled talent from enterprises moving to more agile and flexible workforce models.

Findings from its third annual Talent-On-Demand report, based on proprietary data collected from Outsized’s platform, show that the competition for talent in Africa is intensifying, with technology-related and data skills being the most sought after on the continent.

Globally, the most popular skills were project management, strategy, and digital transformation.

The 2024 Talent-on-Demand report shows the demand for skills across these regions reflected a global shift towards a more data-informed and technology driven business environment.

As a result, project management, strategy consulting, digital transformation, business analytics and technology implementation were among the most sought after skills in all the regions Outsized operated in, in 2023.

Africa saw another year of exceptional talent growth in 2023, with an 83% increase in freelancer registrations across regions. But demand for talent is fierce.

“The competition for talent is intensifying and companies will need to adapt internally, and in their external partnerships, to stay competitive,” says Johann van Niekerk, global CEO and MD: Africa for Outsized.

Technology and data skills drove demand in 2023. Top tech skills included project management, business transformation, business intelligence and agile methodologies.

On the data front, data analytics, and engineering, business intelligence and data science led demand.

In finance-related categories accounting, financial analytics, risk management and financial reporting were among the most in demand skills.

“In Africa in particular, we saw a shift from design and monitoring skills to project implementation, which is reflected in the strong demand for technology and data skills working on projects, and the change management skills supporting those projects,” van Niekerk says.

In 2023, economic challenges saw a strong focus on cost-effective, quality skills in the region, resulting in longer retention and contracts for those at the top of their fields.

“We are seeing an increasing number of professionals who are transitioning to non-permanent employment for the first time, who are looking for longer-term, well-remunerated contracts,” van Niekerk says.

The report provides a breakdown of what freelancers earned in 2023, with details of the average day rates for the top ten skills (across all regions) and the average day rate for each region. The highest day rates were earned by people with digital transformation skills, who earned an average of $392 (approximately R7 400) per day. Technology implementation and business analytics rounded out the top three highest paid skills.

“Sharing this data not only creates transparency around the process, but ensures that in the competitive skills market, both businesses and contractors are able to get the best value from the relationship,” says van Niekerk.

African freelancers are among the most experienced in the four regions covered by Outsized, with candidates having an average of 9,5 years of experience. African candidates are also earning the second highest day rate at $316, outpacing India and MENA, and below the $544 average day rate earned in Southeast Asia.

The average day rate is, however, impacted by the relative split in each region between higher and lower paid skills, as well as average experience of the talent.

According to the survey, these are the business and skills trends in Africa to watch in 2024:

* Navigating economic uncertainty: In the current challenging economic environment, businesses are bracing for further instability prompted by upcoming elections in several nations. This scenario underscores the growing appeal of flexible resourcing strategies. By adopting more adaptable staffing solutions, companies aim to shield themselves from the economic turbulence ahead.

* Enhancing operational efficiency: The push towards refining operational efficiency is becoming increasingly evident across vital sectors such as finance, healthcare, and education. This trend is not only about streamlining processes but also about augmenting performance through the acquisition of specific skill sets. As organisations strive to optimise their operations, the demand for professionals equipped with these specialised skills is set to surge.

* Africa’s leap towards automation and innovation: 2023 marked a pivotal moment for businesses worldwide as Artificial Intelligence (AI) emerged as a critical area of focus. As we progress into 2024, the momentum towards integrating automation and AI is gaining significant traction in Africa. This evolution is anticipated to fuel a burgeoning demand for expertise in fields such as cybersecurity analysis, data science, and AI specialisation. Such roles are essential for fostering innovation and enhancing security measures, positioning them as highly sought after in the current job market.