As Africa’s digital economy expands and startups continue to raise record-breaking funding, the demand for—and supply of—software developers is rising across the continent. Foreign software companies are noticing and the space is heating up.

This article was contributed to TechCabal by Conrad Onyango/bird story agency

Four out of every 10 African software developers now work for at least one company based outside of the continent, while 5 work for local start-ups, according to recent research, highlighting the dynamic and growing market for the continent’s technical talent over the last 2 years.

A 22% rise in the use of the internet by small and medium-sized businesses in Africa, a record fundraising streak by local startups in 2021 and demand for remote tech workers in more mature markets are all factors attributed to the rising awareness of Africa’s software development talent. And, of course, there was the COVID pandemic.

According to Google’s Africa Developer Ecosystem Report 2021, there’s an Increased global demand for remote tech talent, which was accelerated by the pandemic, creating more remote employment opportunities for African developers.

The report shows the number of African professional developers in the workforce defied economic contractions to increase by 3.8%—or, 716,000—making up 0.4% of the continent’s non-agricultural workforce.

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Nigeria led the continent in churning out talents in this field, adding an estimated 5,000 new professional developers to its pool in 2021.

The country even has a number of online academies—like AltSchool Africa—that are attracting programming students from countries around the world by offering an elaborate curriculum in computer programming.

By early February, the digital campus had already received more than 8,000 applications for its software engineering program batch A which starts in April—from 19 countries—and is about to start accepting applications for its batch B.

Morocco added 3,000 new professionals, while South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Tunisia added 2,000 each to their talent pool.

However, South Africa leads the continent in the total number of software developers, with 121,000 followed by Egypt and Nigeria that tied, at 89,000 each.

The growth in the number of developers was not only recorded in the continent’s top tech startup ecosystems. Other emerging ecosystems like Senegal, Algeria, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Mozambique also added to their numbers, with those countries adding an estimated 1,000 software developers, each.

African startups are responsible for hiring more than half of local developers, with foreign companies outside the continent hiring 38% of the remaining talent.

While Africa has a nascent developer ecosystem, these latest statistics suggest a scramble for the continent’s top talent—those with strong programming skills in web and mobile apps development.

This competition seems to have had a positive effect on salaries and other forms of compensation.

Last year, senior-level developers’ income rose the highest by 11% to $55,500 while mid-level talent saw their annual income rise 9% to 425,500.

According to the report, 80% of African developers are below the age of 35 years with the average age being 29—far younger than the global average age of 36.

Africa’s Internet economy is tipped to reach $180 billion by 2025, accounting for 5.2% of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to the International Finance Corporation (IFC). 

By 2050, the projected potential contribution could reach $712 billion which is roughly 8.5% of the continent’s GDP.

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