African Private EO and Geospatial Companies Employ Over 3,400 People, New Report Says

Credit: Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies.

African private Earth observation and geospatial companies employ about 3,482 people, according to a recent report issued by Kenya-based LocateIT. The report, entitled Comprehensive Survey of Earth Observation and Geospatial & Allied Technologies Private Sector in Africa, is one of the two baseline studies to determine operational guidelines for the African Space Policy and Strategy implementation.

The study examined 165 private companies from 36 countries, with 143 of the companies responding to the survey on staff strength. As displayed in the table below, the report shows about 20% of the companies have fewer than five employees; up to 43% have between 5-10 employees while 18% have 11 to 20 employees with the remaining 20% having more than 20 employees.  

Distribution of African private EO and geospatial companies by number of employees
Distribution of African private EO and geospatial companies by number of employees

Small companies dominate the African private EO and geospatial landscape; as the study finds that about two thirds, 63% of the companies employ not more than ten employees, and about 50% have eight employees. Private EO and geospatial business activities are primarily demand-driven and localised, which partly justifies the need for lean operations and stable growth over geographical expansions that usually require more personnel.

It is not unusual to see the dominance of small-medium sized companies in a sector that relies mainly on internal funding for growth, as most African private EO and geospatial companies are self-funded and bootstrapping.

What is more surprising is that the companies managed to maintain small staff strengths even though product/solutions development form the core of their business model, contrary to the popular assumption that most are resellers of existing products and services.

Distribution of African private EO and geospatial companies by employee specialisation
Distribution of African private EO and geospatial companies by employee specialisation

The distribution of full-time employees, according to their respective specialisation, as shown in the table above, indicate the prevalence of technical and operational roles over non-technical and managerial tasks. As expected, non-programming positions relating to the use of EO/geospatial technologies, summed up in the report as EO geospatial functions, account for 30% of total hires across the industry; whilst software development and programming roles account for 17%. In comparison, business development and marketing account for 11%. Other functions, not explicitly defined in the report, account for about 42% of the total workforce.

With 58% of 168 respondent companies founded after 2010, the report concludes that there is a real opportunity for rapid growth as the sector’s performance has shown. There is confidence in the industry to create more employment opportunities for the continent’s teeming population as more private EO companies spring up and existing companies consolidate to capture more value.

© Space in Africa 2020

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New Report: The 2020 Edition of African Space Industry Annual Report is now available. It presents data and analyses on projects, deals, partnership and investments across the continent. It also provides analyses on the growing demand for space technologies and data on the continent, the business opportunities it offers and the necessary regulatory environment in the various countries.

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