Africa’s tech industry has been experiencing a boom for some time now, with software companies on the continent becoming increasingly attractive for foreign direct investment and skill transfer opportunities.
As Rahul Shah, Head of Financial Equity Research at market investment insights firm Tellimer, states in an article from Quartz: “Elevated valuations in other markets are forcing international investors to take a closer look at African start-ups, where the risk-reward profile looks much more compelling. Key hurdles include international investors’ limited local knowledge, the small scale of the continent’s tech hubs, and poor infrastructure.”
In this article, we’ll be exploring three of Africa’s tech giants, Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt, as well as the work visa types applicable to these countries within the ICT sector.
A Google Report dubbed the “Africa Developer Ecosystem Report 2021”, states that about 80% of venture capital funding in Africa went to Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt. With this much capital being pumped into the ICT sector, it isn’t difficult to see why foreign investors are eager to invest in and join Africa’s software startups.
Edtech, healthtech and fintech startups are especially prevalent, focusing on local needs within the market and using technology to bring Africa’s banking, educational and health sectors to an internationally competitive level.
There are several ways to get involved in the African tech sector as a foreign national, including working for an African startup, collaborating with startups to form acceleration programmes, and creating intra-company upskilling programmes from your international headquarters into a local African branch and investing as a venture capitalist.
As a foreign national entering Africa’s software sector, what are your visa options?
Unlike more advanced nations such as France, the UK and the US, Africa does not offer specific technical visas to software engineers and other roles in the sector. This means that practically, it can be difficult to zone in on the correct visa option for a software expert within Africa’s immigration framework.
Fortunately, we’ve broken down the most relevant visa options in this sector for Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt below.
Kenya Visa Options
Kenya’s software market focuses heavily on edtech, document management, Human Resource Management and Project Management.
Work Visa Types in Kenya:
Special Pass Work Permits for Kenya
This work permit is issued to person(s) given specific employment by a particular employer for a short duration not exceeding three months.
Long-term work permits (Class C, D, F, I, M work permit) in Kenya
The different classes of long-term work permits are issued for one year or two years, depending on the duration of the employment contract. Different classes are sector-specific and if you are in the software sector, Class D is applicable.
Important Considerations: Spouses and dependents are allowed to join the main visa holder on a dependents Pass.
Nigeria Visa Options
Nigeria’s tech sector focuses mostly on fintech, with mobile payments and banking taking centrestage.
Work Visa Types in Nigeria
Short-Term Work Permits in Nigeria
If you are entering Nigeria for a short-term work contract, the Temporary Work Permit (“TWP”) would be most applicable. It also covers specialised work, including the installation or repair of specialised equipment, audits, feasibility studies and installation work.The Nigerian entity must apply for a pre-approval, known as a TWP cablegram, which the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) sends to the mission where the TWP visa was submitted for approval.
The TWP visa is usually issued within 10 to 15 working days and the validity commences when the entry stamp is affixed at the port of entry. The TWP may be extended within Nigeria for up to two months
Long-Term Work & Residence Authorisation
Long-Term Work and Residence Authorisation is a two-step process in that a specific type of entry visa is required to enter Nigeria, whereafter, an application for long-term work and residence is submitted within Nigeria.
Firstly, the candidate and accompanying spouse/dependants must obtain a Subject to Regularisation (STR) visa.
Residence Authorisation. As soon as possible after entering Nigeria in terms of the STR Visa, an application for long-term work and residence, known as a Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC) must be submitted to the NIS.
The CERPAC is generally issued for one year (12 months) and is renewable, provided the expatriate quota of the company remains valid.
Important Considerations: As mentioned above spouses and dependants need to obtain an STR Visa, as well as CERPAC for residence, as is the case of the main applicant. For purposes of attending a learning institution, there is no additional Study Visa required for minor dependants.
Africa start-ups raised more than $4 billion USD in 2021 (Africa Developer Ecosystem)
Egypt’s 1997 Investment Incentives Law permits 100% foreign ownership of investment projects. It guarantees the right to remit income earned in Egypt and repatriate capital. For companies specifically looking to transfer their skills to a female-led tech start-ups, Egypt is a great option, with around 35% of software firms led by women.
Work Visa Types in Egypt
Many foreign nationals are visa-exempt, which means that they obtain visas (stamped in) upon arrival at the relevant port of entry. Individuals who are not visa-exempt need to apply for their visas at the Egyptian mission in their country of origin/residence.
Work Visa and Work Permit
In Egypt, work permit compliance takes place in two steps:
(1) Firstly, the candidate needs entry authorisation. This is submitted in Egypt and the processing time is between 7-14 working days. You will not be allowed in-country but at IBN Immigration Solutions, we can submit it on your behalf to the local authorities. Once the Work Visa is granted, the candidate should fly to Egypt and the endorsement of the Work Visa will take place at the port of entry. Should the applicant be from a non-exempt country, the Work Visa endorsement takes place at the Egyptian Embassy in the country of origin or ordinary residence.
NOTE: The Work Visa is valid for one month from the date of entry or endorsement and is not renewable. The right to reside will be granted by the work permit.
(2) Secondly, due to the requirement of the physical presence of the candidate in-country, the application for work authorisation cannot be submitted before entry into the country. A personal appearance at the authorities is preferred, but representation is allowed with a power of attorney. After the submission a receipt is issued, which allows the candidate to commence work.
The average processing time for the work permit is around eight to 10 months for the final work permit, however, the candidate is allowed to start working after submission of the application for a work permit.
The work permit is issued for a maximum duration of one year and can be renewed several times for further periods of up to one year.
Obtaining Residence Authorisation and Permits in Egypt
Once the receipt on submission has been received, the candidate will be issued a residence permit for 6 months. After the endorsement of the residence permit, the foreigner can freely exit and re-enter Egypt during the validity period of the residence.
Important Considerations: Spouses are allowed to accompany the candidate but must obtain an Egyptian residence permit that is valid for the same duration as the candidate’s work permit. If the candidate’s spouse needs to work, a separate work permit must be processed.
Andreas Krensel is the Managing Owner of IBN Immigration Solutions, a multiple award-winning boutique immigration firm providing specialist immigration services for African countries, as well as some international markets.
If you have been offered a work opportunity in Africa or you need to process assignees who are transferring to a branch or subsidiary on the continent, Andreas and his team will take you through the most practical African work visa solution for you 👉 Contact Andreas Today