Nigeria-based developer training school and digital skills outsourcer Andela claims to be the most selective developer school in Africa, and intends to tackle unemployment on the continent by training a generation of highly-skilled young developers – Gabriella Mulligan.
Key to Andela’s philosophy is a rounded approach to its training, with the organisation’s model based on producing world-class full-stack developers as we previously reported. Andela shuns the model it claims most African coding schools follow – focusing on teaching individual niche skills as demand arises.
Once “graduated” from the training phase, Andela employs its developers, and outsources their services to companies worldwide in need to high-quality, low-cost software developers.
Andela claims to recruit the “brightest young people in Africa”, which it does through a combination of online and word-of-mouth marketing efforts, Jeremy Johnson, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Andela tells Appsafrica.com. Once applications are in, candidates are vetted with only 1 per cent of applicants making it through to join the programme – making Andela a highly selective organisation.
“With a less than 1 per cent acceptance rate, Andela is the most selective tech training programme on the [African] continent. That’s how we find the brightest people,” Johnson says.
According to Johnson, Africa is home to a huge pool of talented young people with the potential to be successful in the global digital economy, however, this potential is often stifled by a lack of access to opportunities. As such, Andela aims to be an “on-ramp” to the digital marketplace.
“Andela is founded on the idea that brilliance is evenly distributed across the human population but opportunity is not. Throughout Africa, there are gifted, driven young people with incredible potential to thrive as software developers and entrepreneurs, but too often they have no way of making the most of their abilities. Andela is offering them an on-ramp to the digital economy,” Johnson tells Appsafrica.com.
Cape Town-based Project codeX also believes digital skills will form a significant part of Africa’s future and runs programming courses with the aim of addressing the lack of trained developers in Africa. In Zimbabwe, the Muzinda hub has a similar focus, and is working to train Zimbabwe’s youth in digital skills to address the high levels of unemployment in the country.
Johnson says across the continent, no other organisation is following the same model as Andela – providing all-encompassing rigorous tech training – most other organisations focusing on developing candidates to cater to a specific in-demand skill.
This rounded approach to ensuring across-the-board skills and the exceptionally high expectations of its candidates is what differentiates Andela from other developer schools across Africa, the CEO says.
The value proposition
While Johnson says hiring an Andela developer provides the best financial value for companies looking to outsource work – each developer being posted full-time to a specific project, while costing substantially less than hiring an in-house team member -, he points out that this outsourcing of skills is also key to the Andela model – funds made from hiring out Andela developers pay for the training of further developers.
“Andela’s value proposition is that we are, dollar for dollar, the best investment in scaling a company’s engineering team with high-quality remote developers. Companies that hire Andela developers also help change the world for the better. Every time a company hires an Andela developer, they are helping finance the training of another developer,” he says.
Tech to solve youth unemployment
The Andela team believes that technology can be leveraged to address the high unemployment rates felt by young people across Africa. With Africa home to the world’s fastest growing and youngest population, Johnson points to the fact that there is a near zero per cent unemployment rates among software developers, and says these two facts combined present a very viable solution for Africa.
“With the planet’s youngest, fastest-growing population, Africa is home to the world’s largest pool of untapped talent. In fact, according to the IMF, Africa will have more people joining the labor force than the rest of the world combined over the next 20 years,” Johnson says.
“Meanwhile, more than one out of two young people are unemployed or underemployed in many places from Cairo to Cape Town. Innately gifted, fiercely determined young people are sitting on the economic sidelines, not making the most of their abilities. We’re here to change that.”
With the company deep in work in Nigeria, and busy opening up the programme to candidates in Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa, Andela says it is not an exclusive organisation and encourages other developer schools to launch in Africa.
“We take a “fellow traveler” approach with regard to other schools. We want more people in the space. With 1.1 million people, 70 per cent under 30, we need lots of jobs.”