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Investing in Africa’s talent

Esteve Sala's picture
Africa will have more people joining the labor force over the next 20 years than the rest of the world combined. Photo credit: World Bank

For every software developer in the United States, there are five open jobs. Africa, meanwhile, has the youngest, fastest-growing population on earth, with more people joining the labor force over the next 20 years than the rest of the world combined.

With this idea in mind, and the powerful belief that "brilliance is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not," Andela, founded four years ago, began recruiting recent graduates in Africa with the mission of connecting them to job opportunities in high-tech companies. Today, about 650 developers in Lagos, Nairobi, and Kampala work full-time for over 100 firms spread across 45 cities worldwide.

 

Christina Sass, Co-founder and President, Andela


Teaching in-demand skills

Andela has an extremely competitive selection process, with an acceptance rate of only 0.7 percent —compared to 6% of Harvard University, for example. They examine candidates across 64 different psychometric and skills assessments before inviting the top 10% to a week-long, on-site development sprint led by senior coders. It’s not just about technical skills: they also scrutinize the candidates for the passion, commitment, and teamwork they need to become the next generation of technologists and innovators. Not surprisingly, a few years ago, the talent assessment company that was screening the candidates found out that 46 of the applicants were in the 2% top of IQ in the world —the best evidence showing that talent is, indeed, evenly distributed everywhere.

Once accepted, developers relocate to Andela’s facilities in Lagos, Nairobi or Kampala where they spend six months specializing in a specific technology stack and completing open source projects to gain exposure to the international developer community. The training focuses on several tech stacks for web and apps development, including JavaScript, Python, Ruby, PHP, iOS, and Android.

Connecting with top companies

Andela then pairs each developer with one of its vetted partners —ranging from IBM to Facebook— as a full-time, distributed team member. It is not a “free-lance job” or just outsourcing coders. Before joining a team, each developer flies out to the hiring-firm’s headquarters for at least two weeks of building rapport with the team in-person, and then they work full-time for the same company, like any other team member.

Investing in the community

One of Andela’s goals is not only to “train the next generation of coders but also equip them with the expertise they need to accelerate the advancement of their local communities through technology”. Despite they only operate in three African countries, they have received more than 70,000 applications from 19 countries. Currently, 23% of their developers are women, compared to a global average of 5.8% female software developers —and they will start new all-female developer cohorts to promote female tech leadership.
 
Andela is an example of how private companies are realizing Africa’s demographic dividend and when harnessed, can impact the continent’s growth and create opportunities where they are needed the most.
 
Follow the World Bank Jobs Group on Twitter @wbg_jobs.