Andela thinking pan-African after successful Nigerian launch

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Not many startups plot pan-African expansion so early in their lifespans. But then no many startups are addressing quite as serious a problem as Andela, which is looking to take its developer training concept across the continent.

Founded in September last year by co-founders including chief executive officer (CEO) Jeremy Johnson and Nigerian entrepreneur Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Andela has had a busy few months.

Describing itself as a “global talent accelerator”, Andela looks to produce world-class web developers and connect them with top employers. It is aiming to produce 100,000 such developers in the next 10 years, with Johnson telling Disrupt Africa the company was founded on the idea that “brilliance is evenly distributed around the world but opportunity is not.”

The startup identifies bright young people in Africa and gives them the training and mentorship needed to thrive as full-time, remote developers for companies around the world. The company has already received over 12,000 applications, and has placed developers at clients ranging from startups like Segovia to global companies such as Microsoft.

Its success since first launching in Nigeria has prompted it to plot pan-African expansion, with Disrupt Africa reporting yesterday it was calling for applications from Kenya, Ghana and South Africa with a view to beginning operations in one or more of those countries in the near future.

“We look at a range of factors when considering where to operate, including demographics,” Johnson said.

“With 177 million people, Nigeria is Africa’s largest country, and with 55 per cent youth unemployment, there are large numbers of incredibly sharp, driven young people, hungry for opportunity. We are exploring expansion to additional sites in Nigeria and across Africa, including Kenya, South Africa and Ghana.”

Andela has strong backing, provided by investors including Steve Case, Omidyar Network, Founder Collective, Rothenberg Ventures, Learn Capital, Melo7 Tech Partners, Chris Hughes and Susa Ventures. Johnson said this is due to the size of the opportunity the startup has spotted.

“There is virtually zero unemployment in software development as a field. Amazon has 16,000 open IT jobs and Accenture has 14,000, so the demand is significant,” he said.

“Meanwhile, in many parts of the world, extremely bright, driven young people who could be competing for those jobs are unemployed. Put another way, talent is evenly distributed around the world, but opportunity is not – and Andela is aimed at connecting them.”

Johnson said the company – which with a 0.6 per cent acceptance rate is perhaps the most selective tech training programme in Africa – has created a new model of education that funds itself.

“While there are many non-profits and other organisations dedicated to training young people in technology in the United States (US) and around the world, Andela’s model is unique. Instead of charging tuition, we are paying young people to learn in-demand skills, financing their education through the client work they do upon obtaining those skills, a scalable model of education in resource-poor settings,” he said.

“Andela is generating revenue through the client work that our developers do upon completing their initial four-six month training as world-class web and mobile developers.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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