The Netherlands has eyes on Africa and its software developers. The relationship is symbiotic: Europe needs more developers; Africans need more liquidity. Tunga is the upstart coordinating a handshake.
Like many other markets worldwide, Europe has a demand for software developers that its local market cannot meet. This has driven demand for technical talents to markets like India and Africa where tech-savvy youthful populations are filling positions at global firms. According to a 2021 report by Africa Developer Ecosystem, 38% of Africa’s 716,000 developers work for at least one company headquartered outside Africa. This trend benefits the Netherlands, a European country where the shortage of developers is fuelling the demand for skilled technical talents. “We are trying to fix this shortage,” says Michel Deelen, the Dutch Consul General. “This is why we have eyes on Africa.”
Deelen was at an event in Lagos last month where he spoke about Tech Impact Academy (TIA), a new project that trains software developers in Nigeria. TIA’s goal is to train African developers and serve as a talent pipeline for Tunga, an Andela-like Dutch initiative that connects African software developers to global clients. Tunga has operated in Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya for about six years, and claims to have over 1500 software developers in its community.
“Tunga was founded with the mission to create attractive jobs for African youths,” says Jori Gerritsenn, Tunga’s program manager. “We are creating a win-win situation: helping the EU/US markets to meet its enormous software developer demand by facilitating African developers to reach their potential and gaining access to sustainable jobs on the international market.” The Africans involved get to work remotely for global firms, gain significant experience, and plug into global networks.
Perhaps, the real question is why not Africa? Technical talent on the continent has continued to grow as more young people, seeking better opportunities, plug into the global demand for technology skills. From Lagos to Rwanda, alternative learning platforms like AltSchool have helped build a continental ecosystem of tech talents with globally competitive skills. Additionally, sourcing talent from Africa is cost-effective. The conversion of hard currency to local currency makes talent more affordable, creating a favourable environment for foreign businesses seeking skilled developers.
Also, senior developers in Africa often face challenges in finding financially rewarding jobs within the continent due to the limited number of companies that can offer globally competitive salaries. As a result, they often explore job opportunities outside Africa. This aligns with the growing demand for skilled developers in Europe, making Africa an ideal talent pool to source from.
Africa is rising to the challenge of churning out skilled talents for the world—although, the argument of whether the continent is meeting its own demand for software developers remains. Last year, Kenya introduced a national coding curriculum for its primary and secondary school students. And, in partnership with Microsoft, the East African country launched a digital talent program to build a workforce of tech talents. Issues with Nigeria’s academic sector have also prompted widespread interest in tech skills, altogether shaping a technically-skilled continent.
Deelen, the Dutch Consul General, explained that Africa—and Nigeria especially—is showing a different sequence from the standard economic development theory that puts agriculture first, followed by industry then services like ICT. “Nigeria’s [technology] sector has sort of bypassed certain other sectors. The country is leapfrogging areas of slow growth and moving into something that is working.”
“We’re happy about this,” he adds, maintaining that the Dutch government will continue to support impactful projects like Tunga across Africa.