African tech isn’t safe from industry layoffs

  • Chipper Cash has fired 15 percent of its workforce, mostly in its engineering department, according to reports.
  • The African fintech unicorn joins African tech companies like Sendy and Twiga and industry giants like Meta and Amazon in curtailing salary costs amid harsh market conditions.
  • The tech industry has lost over 120 000 workers so far in 2022 and layoffs could well continue into the next year.

This year will be remembered for the mass layoffs that swept through the tech industry. November was particularly brutal and saw swathes of jobs cut in the tens of thousands by giants like Amazon, Meta and Twitter, and others.

It is believed that over 120 000 tech workers were fired in 2022 so far as companies around the world jump to curtail costs after a pandemic period where revenues exploded and corporations were buoyed by lower interest rates and became overly optimistic about the future post-COVID-19.

As the pandemic began to recede, these hopes grew dimmer and eventually, reality set in. Twitter has fired nearly 4 000 employees, Zuckerberg moved to layoff 11 000 people from Meta, and it is believed that Amazon is axing 10 000 jobs.

But it isn’t just American tech titans that are cutting workers. Africa has also seen layoffs across its tech industry. Francophone Africa fintech Wave was forced to lay off 15 percent of its workforce in June.

“Wave is adjusting rapidly to the jarring changes in capital markets in recent months and like the best of them (and importantly, as a financial institution), it has had to make very hard calls in order to ensure that it can continue to serve customers in existing markets now and long into the future,” wrote Jessica Chervin, an expansion lead at Wave who was cut, in a LinkedIn post.

Kenyan logistics startup Sendy laid off 10 percent of its workforce in October and was joined by Nigerian genomics startup 54Gene which sacked 95 employees from its labs and sales departments (mostly hired to work in 54Gene’s COVID business line).

In November Kenyan ecommerce food distribution platform Twiga dismissed 211 full-time employees, 21 percent of its 1 000 people workforce in the East African country.

Another African unicorn has also been forced to cut amid the harsh climate. On Tuesday, TechPoint.Africa reported that Chipper Cash dismissed 15 percent of its workforce. The cuts come one year after it raised $150 million in a Series C funding round led by now-disgraced crypto exchange FTX.

It is the latest dismissals in African tech, with over 50 people cut from the startup that is valued at over $2 billion. The company facilitates cross-border payments and its services are used in Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa, Kenya and the UK.

TechCrunch reports that Chipper’s engineering department was most harangued by layoffs, with over 60 percent of the department laid off.

This morning a significant amount of Chipper staff were let go in a layoff. While I was not among them, many of my close colleagues and friends were,” shared Erin Fusaro, Chipper Cash VP of Engineering on LinkedIn.

Fusaro has been trying to connect axed employees with new opportunities on the professionals platform: “If you’re looking for talented engineering leadership, engineers, technical program managers, analysts, or IT staff please comment here and I’ll do my best to start connecting people. To those let go today, please feel free and welcome to DM me, I’ll help you find a soft spot to land if I can.”

No company is an island, and the industry around the world is being affected by the market conditions exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis in Europe, and the skyrocketing interest rates.

It’s going to be a lean Christmas for tech as consumers have less expendable income this year and as the Russo-Ukrainian war enters its second winter with no end in sight, the cuts will surely continue into the new year.

[Image – CC 0 Anna Shvets on Pexels]


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