How One Man Hopes to Boost Africa’s Technology Sector

How One Man Hopes to Boost Africa’s Technology Sector

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Hiruy Amanuel, cofounder of Gebeya IT Academy in Ethiopia, recently sat down with Tesfaye Getnet of CapitalEthiopia.com to talk about the state of IT in Ethiopia and how he’s leading an effort to bring more specialized IT training to the country.

hiruy amanuel
Hiruy Amanuel

The IT industry is growing slowly in Ethiopia, and technology companies have been slow to invest because they feel like they cannot rely on the workforce, which often does not have the specific training necessary for work that would usher in more modern systems of communication, trade, and operations, he said. In other parts of Africa, the technology sector is growing quickly, thus spurring the demand for more IT professionals. Amanuel is taking the lead in establishing IT training centers that will create a large, skilled IT workforce and match African businesses and employers with trained IT professionals at a reasonable cost.

“Our goal at Gebeya is to bridge the financial gap in IT Web Solution Services of African developers by providing better curriculum and more quality control implementation with respect to the complimenting services they provide,” Amanuel said.

Amanuel helped establish Gebeya, which means “marketplace” in Amharic, in 2016. The first academy, which is in Addis Ababa, will offer a six-month training session for residents of Ethiopia. All applicants must have a background in basic programming and can work in at least one programming language. The academy is specifically looking for people with degrees in computer science or information science, as well as freelancers and consultants who have at least two years of experience in implementing systems and developing applications. Gebeya will offer a basic programming course in the future, but the initial session will focus on more advanced training with an emphasis on web and mobile application engineering, UI and UX design, and DevOps. Trainees also can take extra classes in communications and professional English.

Amanuel plans to quickly expand Gebeya so that 5,000 students pass through the academy in the next five years. The initial program, which is limited by space, can graduate as many as 500 students, and soon Gebeya will move to a bigger facility, which can accommodate as many as 1,000 each year. As the program adds more courses to build on the IT Business Analysis, IT Project Management, Digital Marketing, IT Quality Assurance, and software testing classes it already offers, it will expand to other African countries. Amanuel said the goal is to improve the quality of the IT industry throughout the continent.

Currently, the job outlook for IT work is not strong in Ethiopia, although other African nations, such as Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria, have a high demand for software and application developers. Ethiopian businesses are not yet prepared to utilize technology to streamline and improve their workflow, because it is either too expensive to implement or they don’t have the resources to bring in updated technology. Gebeya hopes to help Ethiopia develop its technology sector by supplying well-trained IT professionals who will provide businesses with on-demand services at affordable prices.

Meanwhile, Gebeya will base its marketing team in Kenya, where software developers are in high demand and many Fortune 500 countries have established African headquarters or large offices. As it supplies talent to Kenya-based companies, Gebeya can begin building its customer base, Amanuel said. Then, thanks to Gebeya’s online marketplace, trained Ethiopian IT professionals will be able to connect with those clients and others around the world.

Amanuel also addressed the issue of low salaries for African IT workers, especially recent graduates. He said that because the demand for IT work in Ethiopia is low and local IT workers in the past have at times been inadequately skilled, business owners generally will not pay high prices for IT work. Low standards for training and education of IT workers also have lowered the average wage to about $10 an hour. Amanuel hopes that pay will increase significantly when Gebeya-trained professionals, who will meet much higher standards for education and training, enter the African IT job market.

Gebeya will continue to support its students after graduation, offering several post-graduate options. Gebeya’s online marketplace, gebeya.com, will match its graduates with customers looking for IT professionals who will help them develop innovative technology solutions and improve development efficiency, scalability, and mobile success. At first, graduates will work with African companies, and eventually Gebeya will add an online database to work with international clients.

Because of their improved technology skills and professional training, graduates will be able to enter the job market directly and will likely be much more marketable, Amanuel said. Students who are sponsored by their employer and return to their jobs could become significant contributors to their company, while others with a more entrepreneurial spirit may choose to use their newly honed IT skills to found their own startup companies.

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