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As the Digital Economy Continues to Expand, African Programmers Are Becoming Hot Property

Africa's programmers are hot property [Hope Mukami/bird story agency]

As Africa’s digital economy expands and start-ups continue to raise record-breaking funding, the demand for, and supply of, software developers is rising across the continent. Foreign software companies are noticing and the space is heating up.

By Conrad Onyango, bird story agency

Four out of every ten African software developers now work for at least one company based outside of the continent, while five work for local start-ups, according to recent research, highlighting the dynamic and growing market for the continent’s technical talent over the last two years.

A 22 per cent rise in the use of the internet by small and medium-sized businesses in Africa, a record fundraising streak by local startups in 2021 and demand for remote tech workers in more mature markets are all factors attributed to the rising awareness of Africa’s software development talent. And, of course, there was the COVID pandemic.

“Increased global demand for remote tech talent, which was accelerated by the pandemic, created more remote employment opportunities for African developers,” said Google in its ‘Africa Developer Ecosystem Report 2021.’

The report shows that the number of African professional developers in the workforce defied economic contractions to increase by 3.8 per cent — or 716,000 — making up 0.4 per cent of the continent’s non-agricultural workforce.

Nigeria led the continent in churning out talents in this field, adding an estimated 5,000 new professional developers to its pool in 2021.

The country even has an online academy, AltSchool Africa, that is attracting programming students from countries around the world by offering an elaborate curriculum in computer programming.

By early February, the digital campus had already received more than 8,000 applications for its software engineering program which starts in April – from 19 countries.

Morocco added 3,000 new professionals, while South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, and Tunisia added 2,000 each to their talent pool.

However, South Africa leads the continent in the total number of software developers, with 121,000 followed by Egypt and Nigeria tied, at 89,000 each.

The growth in the number of developers was not only recorded in the continent’s top tech start-up ecosystems. Other emerging ecosystems like Senegal, Algeria, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Mozambique also added to their numbers, with those countries adding an estimated 1,000 software developers, each.

African startups are responsible for hiring more than half of local developers, with foreign companies outside the continent hiring 38 per cent of the remaining talent.

While Africa has a nascent developer ecosystem, these latest statistics suggest a scramble for the continent’s top talent — those with strong programming skills in web and mobile app development.

This competition seems to have had a positive effect on salaries and other forms of compensation.

“More African developers are getting full-time jobs due to both the rise in demand from local start-ups and the global demand for remote technical talent,” says Google.

Last year, senior-level developers’ income rose the highest — by 11 per cent to 55,500 US dollars, while mid-level talent saw their annual income rise 9 per cent to 25,500 US dollars.

According to the report, 80 per cent of African developers are below the age of 35 years with the average age being 29 – far younger than the global average age of 36.

Africa’s Internet economy is tipped to reach 180 billion US dollars by 2025, accounting for 5.2 per cent of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

By 2050, the projected potential contribution could reach 712 billion US dollars, 8.5 per cent of the continent’s GDP.

bird story agency

Also Read: Leveraging Technology to Advance Your Financial Goals


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