A four-year effort to train and employ Africans in the software industry continues to expand, as a Silicon Valley investor has helped establish Africa’s first private Pan-African IT academy. Called Gebeya, the program is designed to develop African talent and connect newly trained coders with the global business market.
Gebeya is launching in Ethiopia, where three-fourths of the nation’s almost 100 million people are youth. The academy began accepting applications in the summer of 2016, and classes are scheduled to begin in the fall. Some students will be eligible for partial or full scholarships, and those who pay tuition can pay in installments. The program will have ties to Kenya, where its marketing team will be based. Many Fortune 500 companies base their African headquarters in Kenya, which consequently has a high demand for software developers.
The Need for Technology Training in Africa
IT training is an excellent solution for helping the millions of youth in Africa who are unemployed or underemployed. Statistics show that half of young people ages 15-34 in many African countries do not have jobs, and many of those who are employed are paid minimally. While the world becomes more dependent on technology, many in Africa have no access to computers and are increasingly left out of the globalizing world.
Many traditional schools in Africa do not have the resources to provide students with computers, and many students who graduate from high school have never even used a computer. Technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in the workforce, and even entry-level jobs often require some computer knowledge. The struggle for Africans who want to work in the tech industry has been difficult, as young people must work hard to save money for education and finding a training center to acquire the necessary skills.
As a result, Africa has a disproportionate impact on the IT field, according to the 2012 Information Economy Report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Africa’s 1.2 billion people represent 15 percent of the world’s population, but the continent only impacts about 3 percent of the $1.3 trillion USD in global IT revenue.
History of Gebeya
In 2012, CODERS4AFRICA (C4A), a large network of African software developers, decided to focus on training new software developers who could help build an IT industry in Africa. It spent several years training people to code in Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, and several other countries, but C4A leaders realized they needed to do more. Many more people needed to be trained, and they needed more job opportunities than what the African IT sector currently provided.
In an effort to expand C4A, CEO Amadou Daffe visited Silicon Valley in California, in hopes of finding investors. Hiruy Amanuel, an entrepreneur of Ethiopian heritage, stood out. In conversation with Daffe about how they could contribute to Africa’s destiny, Amanuel mentioned that he had long wanted to build a school in Ethiopia.
“Being from Silicon Valley, it took me literally five minutes to sell him on why a software engineering academy coupled with a platform that would match graduates with clients would be extremely valuable in Ethiopia and duplicable across other African countries,” Daffe said in a press article.
They named their new initiative “Gebeya,” which means “marketplace” in Amharic, one of the main languages spoken in Ethiopia. Along with its academy in Ethiopia and marketing headquarters in Kenya, the program also has an American office for its administrative and legal staff.
The Future of IT in Africa
Gebeya’s training center will provide a formal training program for young African programmers, teaching them technology and computer skills. While many computer-training centers offer seminars, Gebeya’s program offers specialized training courses that Amanuel said are unique to Africa. After the Ethiopian center opens, Gebeya hopes to open a new center in a different African country every year and a half.
Class topics will include Android development, mobile applications engineering, front-end and back-end application development, API management, and DevOps engineering. Students also will receive education in professional English communications and the customer-relations skills necessary for software developers.
Students will be taught by Africans, as the center will employ C4A experts from Mali, Kenya, and Senegal. The center plans to graduate 250 to 300 software coders at the end of the six-month program, which costs $1,500. As many as 25 percent of students could receive some scholarship money.
Graduates will be looking for IT jobs in a culture that is beginning to embrace the industry. For example, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Information & Communications Technology is establishing an electronics and software development enterprise, and another government agency is also looking into the feasibility of creating similar enterprises focused on software development. In June 2015, the government opened an Information Communication Technology (ICT) Village to support entrepreneurs and encourage growth in Ethiopia’s ICT sector.
“Ethiopia is ready for the talent that we are going to graduate,” Amanuel said.