When Andela announced that it was shifting its focus to acquiring senior software engineering talent as a result of some business realignment, it was not surprising to the people on the ground. It was a trend that had started several months earlier.

Andela had already started scouting for senior talent, poaching from other companies in Kenya.

Besides Andela, other industry players are doing the same. Microsoftโ€™s African Development Center in Nairobi has already gobbled up some software development talent and poached some good people from Andela, FinServe Africa and other organizations.

The demand for senior software engineers is high.

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For the developers, this is a welcome move.

This presents opportunities now and in the future, as there will likely be more demand even from other global companies when they know they can source for affordable software development services from various African countries. A few years ago, western companies realized that they can easily cut the production cost by moving a lot of their manufacturing and industrial processes to China and other Asian countries. The transfer of skills was phenomenal!

If the same trend comes to Africa in terms of software developers, the future of the continent will be bright. It will only be a matter of time before Africa becomes a force to reckon as far as software product development is concerned. ย 

Africaโ€™s greatest asset is its young people, and this would be a lifeline for them.

What is the implication of all this for the tech ecosystem?

The cost of software development shifts upwards due to the big guns who are targeting the same engineers. Many startups will definitely be outgunned, and will feel the pinch. However, there will be a positive side from it.

The quality of development will go even higher as the general level of skill sets increase. The tech ecosystem will most likely grow as a unit, and we should expect to see more killer products being churned out of Nairobi as the senior developers grow in skills, experience and exposure. The reputation is also good, as investments such as startup funding will also follow the reputation.

The case for Junior Software Engineers

Having said all this, who will transform junior software engineers into senior engineers?

Andela had promised to do just that, but market forces have steered the company elsewhere. For survival, their business model has to make sense. Good intentions do not just pay the bills. Someone has to pay the cost of developing the developers, like Rwanda is doing. While Andela announced that they were discontinuing the program in Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria, the program still runs in Rwanda, supported by the Rwandese government.

Many established companies have a pipeline for developing talents from graduate interns to senior engineers. This also includes having some incentives to make them stay in the wake of increased competition and millennialsโ€™ tendency to switch jobs. This is the talent which is very much threatened by competition and market forces.

On the other hand, there are specialized institution such as Moringa School in Kenya which are offering technical and professional training to enable people compete in a digital economy. These provide the much-needed skills and exposure which enable people with no professional training to delve into the programming world. This is what Andela has also been doing so far, but is stopping the initiative.

One way to help the ecosystem is to come up with more of such initiatives that are affordable.

However, there is another route that many people take; self-training.

Young people in Kenya have moved into software development by simply using online tools to train themselves, then going out to look for work wherever they find it. Once one has been involved in one project for some time, they can use that as a reference for future gigs. This approach has produced some of the finest software engineers, and even people with degrees in non tech fields have taken this route. Its main advantage is that most people who attempt this are very determined, and likely talented enough.

The limitation is usually the lack of networks and good mentorship which is necessary for growth in the field. Perhaps, we need more formal channels where these people can be attached and learn from other senior engineers.

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