Last week Africa’s leading tech company which focuses on identifying and nurturing software developers announced its decision to lay off about 250 junior developers that they can’t guarantee jobs next year, this has led to several debates by educators.
Software engineers, employers and players in Africa’s technology space and beyond are still reeling from the shock Andela announcement that it would be laying 400 junior engineers in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda.
In its statement explaining the move away from its famed approach of finding opportunities for Africa’s young talented engineers, Andela explained that demand for more experienced talent has limited its ability to find jobs for its junior talent.
‘‘We will be letting go of approximately 250 Andelans in Nigeria and Uganda, with an additional 170 potentially impacted in Kenya, who we don’t believe we’ll be able to find meaningful work for over the next year,’‘ Jeremy Johnson, the CEO and co-founder announced last week.
‘‘We now have significantly more junior talent than we are able to place. Just as important, those junior engineers want, and deserve, authentic work experience that we are not able to provide.’‘
Andela’s revolutionary dream
Andela came to Africa 5 years ago, with lofty aspirations, pledging to recruit and train software engineers on the African continent, and find them work with Silicon Valley companies and other international employers.
Since 2014, Andela has recruited over 1,000 software engineers in Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Egypt and Ghana, who are employed and handsomely paid by more than 200 companies around the world.
The company named inspired by South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, has raised over $180m in venture capital, from high profile investors like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, ex-US vice president Al Gore, and tennis star Serena Williams.
Hardly five years after this beautiful experiment kicked off, Andela will surpass $50 million in annual revenues for 2019, a feat that has only been matched by e-commerce startup, Jumia, in Africa’s tech space.
An educator’s thoughts
Andela’s strategic shift has raised several questions.Will the Andela Alumni find matching jobs in the local space? Where will Andela find the 700 senior engineers it seeks to hire by 2020? And most importantly, when will we resolve the issue of our university graduates and young talent, not being good enough?
To help us answer some of these questions, we spoke to Michael Niyitegeka, a technology educator in Uganda, who has lectured at traditional institutions like Makerere University, and is now part of non-conventional training programs like the Refactory tech program.
Why exactly is Andela laying off junior developers, just four years after the project started?
The plan was to find raw talent, work with the talent over a period of four years under their fellowship program. And then, based on the demand that comes through, they are able to find the kind of work that will be able to keep them productive. But that is not what has happened. What has happened is that they are getting more clients who are saying, we want ready talent.
Andela and Refactory, have all had to deal with the gap between what schools and universities teach and what employers need.What will it take to produce graduates that can solve today’s tech problems, without the need for extra training?
So, if universities here are going to change that narrative, they need to find resources that are going to be constantly talking to industry, paying attention to the needs, but most importantly, that when they see what needs to change, they also invest in that change. What we have sometimes is the lip service, they are willing to, they talk to you, they make you feel like they are going to do something, but then they don’t act on it.
How is the Refactory tech program designed to succeed where the likes of Andela may have struggled?
The way we have structured Refactory is that you come in for three months, and in the three months, we have done an assessment. We equip you with the right skills, technical skills, and based on how you are progressing, and the milestones that you are achieving, we then take you on a six months, industry apprentice program, where you are working directly with the industry. And, our primary focus is really training, we are not consulting, we are not building systems, we are primarily focused on getting people ready for the workplace in the shortest possible time.