How Nigeria’s Decagon has taken up Andela’s baton in training software engineers

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Nigerian company Decagon, founded by well-known entrepreneur and investor Chika Nwobi, is picking up where Andela left off in training the next generation of African software engineers.

Nwobi, profiled by Disrupt Africa here back in 2015, has spent the last 20 years building companies like MTech, Jobberman and Cheki, and has made a number of investments. While doing all this, however, he found that engineering managers and company executives were in dire need of software engineers, and often reached out to him for recommendations. 

“Until 2018, Andela used to be in the business of training and deploying tech talent using a model similar to ours. Now, we have taken up the task,” Nwobi told Disrupt Africa.

He founded Decagon, which he says is ushering in a new phase of tech-powered growth in Nigeria by training exceptional young people in software engineering and leadership, and connecting them to high-paying jobs in Nigeria and internationally. 

“We’ve created a model that helps us identify the smartest young Nigerians, and with our “learn then pay-as-you-earn option”, individuals who ordinarily would not have been able to afford our programme are able to change the course of their lives,” Nwobi said.

Basically, Decagon selects the most talented learners from Nigeria and gives them a place on its software engineering and leadership training programme. This programme runs for six months and includes accommodation, food, a laptop, and a monthly stipend to achieve deep-focused and immersive learning. 

Learners go through over 1,800 hours of immersive learning, 240 hours of code reviews, and 600 hours of live projects. 

“With this intensive learning experience, they become well rounded work-ready software engineers. We also match Decagon developers with partner organisations to join their engineering teams full-time,” said Nwobi.

All this is provided for free, with Decagon making revenues from tuition fees paid via loans from partner banks, which students starts to repay six months after they have secured employment.

The initial financial investment, Nwobi said, is worthwhile as the opportunities are so large for developers in Africa’s exciting tech space.

“Tech startups continue to grow in their numbers, and traditional companies are identifying new ways to execute with technology, all of which rely on developers to build out,” he said. 

“Nigeria currently has the largest population in Africa with a median age varying between 17 and 19 years who are talented but lacking opportunity, therefore it made sense to venture. Also we found that the amount of untrapped income flowing outward to places like India could impact our economy if we develop and organise the talent pool. We saw an opportunity to make Nigeria competitive in the global tech talent space.”

Decagon has so far undergone four rounds of student enrollments, for which it recorded over 25,000 applications, and achieved a 100 per cent placement rate for the two cohorts that have completed the programme.

“All participants in the first and Second cohorts have taken up software engineering roles in leading companies in Africa, including Interswitch, Access Bank, Seamfix, Kobo360, and Terragon,” said Nwobi. 

“Presently our fourth cohort is rounding off their programme, and a good number of them already have great offers with amazing perks and remuneration packages. A few have multiple offers. The feedback from partner companies has been excellent, and we have become the preferred talent partner for some top companies, having demonstrated success in training and deploying competent tech talent.”

Decagon’s target markets are startups and enterprises, with the company recruiting, training and managing engineering talent so companies can focus on growth.  

“At the moment, we have an existing talent pipeline which is set to grow as we repeat the cycle across multiple cohorts. By the end of 2020, we should have produced 600 world-class software engineers ready to join engineering teams locally and internationally,” said Nwobi.

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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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