For many African software developers, the pathway to a career as a Bitcoin developer is not clear, and so it remains an unexplored possibility. This is the challenge that the team at Qala Africa is trying to fix, beginning April 2022.

Bitcoin is a lifeline that has provided options to many young Africans who have been locked out of legitimate income generating opportunities on the internet for a long time. The cryptocurrency has resonated with this demographic and in spite of regulatory roadblocks, they have embraced it to trade, invest, make seamless cross-border transactions and get paid for their creative works amongst others.

However, Africa’s engagement with this technology is not sufficient as mere consumers. Members of the tech ecosystem are determined to engage more as producers and builders shaping the way the Bitcoin network is evolving with the nuances of our continent taken into consideration.

The competence of African software developers has gained the attention of the global tech community in the last couple of years. There are now dozens of coding schools and bootcamps training web developers, front-end and back-end developers, designers, product managers, etc. and matching them to job opportunities in global companies. 

In spite of that, these opportunities are not yet common for blockchain developers and even less so for Bitcoin and Lightning Network developers. 

What is Qala?

Qala is a programme designed to train the next generation of Bitcoin and Lightning Network developers from across the African continent. The goal is to find, upskill and match African developers with Bitcoin companies from around the globe. 

At the helm of Qala is Program Director, Femi Longe, who notably co-founded the Co-Creation Hub(CcHub) in Lagos, which is arguably the most influential organization driving innovation that transforms people’s lives in Africa.

Qala is the brainchild of a quartet of African Bitcoin and Lightning developers keen to see more people like them actively contributing to the development of the Bitcoin and Lightning networks. The founders are Abubakar Nur Khalil (CEO of Recursive Capital, Bitcoin Core Contributor & Board Member at Btrust), Carla Kirk-Cohen (Lightning Developer & Board Member at Btrust), Bernard Parah (CEO of Bitnob, building financial services on Bitcoin and the lightning network), and Tim Akinbo (Bitcoin Developer, Owner of the first Bitcoin node in West Africa and Former Co-founder of Tanjalo). They then teamed up with the team behind the Chaincode Labs education programs.

The Qala curriculum is tailored to give developers the philosophical background and firm foundations of Bitcoin and the Lightning Network, with an acute focus on developing the most in-demand skills sought after by companies.

An experienced and world-class faculty has been assembled to support the students through a personalized learning experience that would help them hit the ground running as Bitcoin engineers upon commencement of work.

Beyond the possibilities of using the skills developed to contribute to the Bitcoin Core and numerous other Bitcoin projects, the team is excited about the new vistas of income and social mobility that the developed skills would open up for the trainees.

At the moment, Qala’s target candidates are mid to senior level developers looking to transition into careers in Bitcoin development. In future, the curriculum may be expanded to provide a complete pathway for individuals interested in getting into software development, specifically to become Bitcoin developers.

Progress so far

Since opening a call in October 2021, more than 800 African developers have applied for a place on the Qala programme. 

After completing a code challenge and attending short interviews, the top 50 performers were invited to start their peer-to-peer learning journey through study groups and virtual seminars where they learnt the fundamentals and philosophy behind Bitcoin.

From this cohort, the top 13 candidates were chosen to join in the 3-month programme, where they will gain advanced skills that will enable them to get matched to Bitcoin developer jobs in the shortest possible time.

Already, Qala has a growing pool of Bitcoin-first and Bitcoin-only companies who have expressed interest in hiring developers who come out of the learning process. With the programme, the aim is to ensure all the developers increase their income on commencement of employment and grow it steadily as high performers in their new roles.

Why is Qala Important?

African Perspectives on Bitcoin Development

Bitcoin remains the go-to leader in the cryptocurrency space, with the largest market capitalization and most secure, open, decentralized, and censorship-resistant network. Bitcoin is not going away anytime soon. We have an opportunity to ensure that African voices are represented in community conversations about the direction of Bitcoin. With time, we also hope this will stimulate the development of new use cases of Bitcoin to tackle important socio-economic challenges facing the continent. Qala is committed to facilitating this.

Facilitating Learning Opportunities

Developers need challenges and opportunities that help them develop the in-demand skills that employers are seeking. In this light, Qala intends to organize hackathons and challenges for the African Bitcoin developer community to develop their skills, collaborate with peers, and build out a portfolio of projects that will help them grow in proficiency and marketability.

A Whole World of Job Opportunities

Beyond working on Bitcoin Core, there are numerous job opportunities for developers to work on the Lightning network, alternative software implementations of Bitcoin, the operating systems for Bitcoin nodes, utility and client libraries, and an assortment of wallets, payment processors and exchanges that support Bitcoin. Through Qala, African developers will be upskilled for and connected to these opportunities.

Learning & Growing Together

Peer-to-peer engagement is a core part of the Bitcoin DNA and a foundational aspect endorsed by developers in the community driving its development from inception. Empirically, learning happens best when there is a communal element at play. Qala is committed to building an active community of African Bitcoin developers. This support group will be crucial for the development and growth of every developer in the programme.

Final Words

The ambition is to build an active community of African Bitcoin developers over the next two years, learning together and collaborating to birth new applications of the technology to improve how people work, live and do business on and from the African continent. The community will embody the egalitarian spirit and ethos that has informed the development of Bitcoin with shared ownership, mutual learning and accountability at the core.

Over the next couple of months, Qala will introduce several opportunities to engage with the community, including learning experiences, hiring, and co-building opportunities. If you are a software developer thinking about the evolution of your career, connect with Qala to explore your options as a Bitcoin developer. If you are building a Bitcoin application, connect with the team to access talent to bring your dreams to life.

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