Start-up of the week: Andela focuses on African youth to find the developers of tomorrow

Boubacar Diallo

With more than a million developer positions available to grow the sector worldwide, Andela has set up in Kenya, but also in Nigeria and Uganda to train apprentices and make them available for companies.

Thika, a small Kenyan industrial town an hour’s drive northwest of the capital, Nairobi. Behind the walls of a former Catholic school, a brand new open space welcomes dozens of young geeks behind their computers. For their comfort, brightly colored armchairs have been installed, as well as a babyfoot, a chess table, a lounge area … Like an air of Silicon Valley, California. It is the headquarters of Andela’s local subsidiary, a computer services company.

In addition to the trendy workspaces, a part of the buildings is recently dedicated to a canteen open 24 hours 24. An annex is also under construction to allow budding developers to stay on site. Some of them collaborate with the United States or other parts of the world, forcing them to work staggered hours.

Basket, jeans, checked shirt. Joshua Mwaniki is the manager of this Kenyan entity. At 38, this lawyer by training is addicted to new technologies. “When I was 25, at university, I launched an online magazine that linked campuses in the region. It was a kind of social network before the hour, he says. I became more interested in computers and realized the power of technology. Good software, good application, can change the world.

Four job offers behind each developer
A few years later, Joshua Mwaniki will abandon the right to become a developer. He will head Andela’s subsidiary in Kenya at its launch in 2015. “My work allows me to combine people and technology. My two passions.

Andela is a nursery of software developers in Africa. Arriving in Nigeria since 2014, in Kenya the following year and in Uganda a year ago, the company unearths the cream of the continent’s talents. She trained them coding for four years, while finding them missions as a consultant for the big names in the global technology sector, including GitHub, Mastercard, SeatGeek or Crunchbase.

The challenge of the sector: find competent programmers to ensure its growth

It must be said that the company, based in New York, was launched in 2014 by five professionals in the sector address book well supplied. Two of them are Americans, the others are Canadian, Cameroonian and Nigerian. Together, they wanted to respond to one of the biggest challenges in the sector: finding competent programmers to ensure its growth. Because today, behind every developer, there are four job offers available. 1.2 million jobs would be vacant worldwide.

It must be said that the company, based in New York, was launched in 2014 by five professionals in the sector address book well supplied. Two of them are Americans, the others are Canadian, Cameroonian and Nigerian. Together, they wanted to respond to one of the biggest challenges in the sector: finding competent programmers to ensure its growth. Because today, behind every developer, there are four job offers available. 1.2 million jobs would be vacant worldwide.

Detect talent

To fill this gap, the company is betting on Africa and it is not a coincidence. 60% of the population is under 35 and nearly half is unemployed. Andela has established itself on the continent in less than five years, strengthening its presence since October 2017 through a fundraising, the third, of 40 million dollars. Among the investors are the Chan-Zuckerberg Foundation, Learning Capital and TLcom, a venture capital fund specializing in technology. Not yet profitable, the company aims above all growth.

In Kenya, 40% of developers have no training, only a third have reached college. “One of the biggest challenges has been getting to know the talent that sometimes lives far away from big cities and has no idea what the potential is,” says Mwaniki. To remedy this, Andela relies primarily on local communities, but also on colleges and universities. Since its establishment three years ago, 75,000 candidates have applied online. But only 600 of them were retained after two months of extensive testing and in the end, a third were engaged.

To date, 700 developers have integrated Andela in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda

Today, 252 developers work for Andela in Kenya, supervised by 113 employees from different departments (marketing, finance, operations, etc.). “We are looking for excellence, the cream of the crop,” says Joshua Mwaniki. Once integrated into the program, apprentices are trained for six to nine months to learn the ropes of coding before becoming consultants and to improve their skills over the years. The year 2019 will be the first wave of developers confirmed and trained by Andela in Kenya. All already have job offers, according to the leader. To date, 700 developers have integrated Andela in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda.

Salaries well below international standards
Andela is strongly reminiscent of the Paris school “42” Xavier Niel. The founder of Free visited them two years ago. A comparison that Joshua Mwaniki accepts with pleasure, while adding a nuance of size: “The big difference with Xavier Niel’s school is that we are not a school. There is no diploma at the end of the apprenticeship and there are no students here but many paid employees. ”

Apprentices earn between $ 800 and $ 2,500 a month through their consulting work. Salaries are particularly high compared to the average of the country but which often represent only a quarter of what can claim an American developer. Andela convinces its partners thanks to the quality of its training and the low price of its workforce, but it also answers to a big problem for the big companies of the sector: the turnover.

Faced with the multitude of job offers, developers, quickly approached by the competition, rarely stay more than a few months in the same company. Andela’s apprentices pride themselves on staying in the company for at least a year, and can therefore focus on the same long-term program. An important and rare asset in the environment.

Jeune Afrique

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