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.
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.
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.