Africa Tech Trends: Boosting the continent’s software development talent

A number of initiatives are currently aimed at boosting the continent's software development talent.

A number of initiatives are currently aimed at boosting the continent’s software development talent.

Africa Tech Trends is a fortnightly column by Tom Jackson focusing on the most important developments in Africa’s technology industry.

Solving Africa’s shortage of developers

Africa’s shortage of software developers is well-known, and is hampering business on the continent. It is a problem that has hung around for a while.

The last year or so, however, has seen genuine attempts to tackle this problem. The most high profile is Andela, which launched in Nigeria this year and is now set to expand across the continent after securing a funding round led by Spark Capital. The company trains developers and then hires them out to Fortune 500 companies such as Microsoft.

It is devilishly selective, with only 1% of applicants gaining entry. But with backers including Steve Case and Omidyar Network, it has the financial clout to tackle the problem head on.

Andela is not the only company looking to ensure African developers meet required standards. In South Africa, CodeX has the backing of former First National Bank CEO Michael Jordaan and is skilling-up local youth in developing. Muzinda and Moringa School are running similar projects in Zimbabwe and Kenya respectively. There may be a way still to go, but signs suggest the issue is being tackled by a variety of initiatives across the continent.

Konga wants Nigerians to pay electronically

The Nigerian e-commerce market is a busy space, with Jumia and Konga the two major players. But e-commerce has proven challenging, with companies forced to introduce concepts such as pay on delivery, given consumers’ aversion to pay online.

Even mobile money has failed to make the same kind of headway in Nigeria as it has elsewhere on the continent. But Konga is working at encouraging customers to pay for their goods electronically. The company’s play is KongaPay – similar to Amazon’s one-click solution – which sends an authorisation code to a user’s mobile phone when they make a transaction.

Konga is strongly committed to making it work, evidenced by the fact it has overcome legal issues by acquiring the mobile money licence of Zinternet Nigeria Limited. For e-commerce to truly thrive, online payments need to become more entrenched. It remains to be seen if it will work, but Konga has made the first move in trying to wean people off the pay on delivery model.

Microsoft scaling up SME assistance

SMEs are important to Microsoft’s customer acquisition plans, and the company continues to do its level best to get as many small businesses online as possible and help them grow. The company has partnered with the ICT Authority of Kenya to help bring 10,000 businesses online in the country, launched the Biz4Afrika SME portal, and rolled out its Virtual Academy, which offers access to Microsoft products and toolkits.

The reason for this focus is clear. SMEs account for more than 95% of all firms in sub-Saharan Africa. The goal of Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative is to get one million of these online, and therefore make them potential consumers of Microsoft technology. So far it has managed 300,000.

And the launch of new initiatives shows no signs of slowing down. Last week Microsoft partnered the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) to roll out an online intellectual property (IP) registration system in Kenya.

It may seem an indirect way of building the community of SME customers Microsoft wants, but the company has realised it has a part to play at the lower-levels of the SME ecosystem if it is to reap the long-term rewards.