Uganda hopes to build a critical mass of globally competitive software developers in the coming few years to enable the country tap into the growing software-based economy.
This follows the launch of Andela Uganda – a technology company – that seeks to train and empower Ugandans to build globally competitive software development skills and position the country to harness the new software-based economy that is driving development.
The launch comes at a time when organisations are increasingly using a variety of software and information technology (IT) tools to maximise their potential and ensure efficient service delivery.
Experts indicate that software skills have expanded beyond IT industries to other sectors like manufacturing, health, education and agriculture, resulting in faster expansion of jobs in the software industry globally than in other occupations.
Andela Uganda country director, Jackie Ochola, said that the firm, which also operates in Kenya and Nigeria, seeks to combat shortage of software development skills on the continent by selecting and training the most talented developers and set itself the forefront of Africa’s technological disruption.
“Africa has an untapped talent-pool at a time when companies around the world are looking for skilled engineers; we will help global companies access untapped talent in software development across Africa to facilitate the shift to a digital economy,” she said.
Andela enrols interested people from any education background and trains them into competitive software developers, at no cost.
Founded four years ago in Nigeria, the company is funded by Google, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC).
The total last round of funding was $40m (sh148.1b), which is shared among the three countries.
The firm currently has over 1,000 employees in the three countries, of which 700 are developers. In Uganda, the company has 100 developers.
Andela recruits in groups of between 10 and 20 trainees at a time to join a four year fellowship where they are mentored and coached to become world class developers.
After the four-year paid fellowship, some of them are retained as senior developers, consultants or trainers while other join other organisations or set up their own companies.
Ochola, however, urged government to make coding – the computer language used to develop apps, websites and software – an essential and mandatory skill for all Ugandans.
She said that coding is the skill for 21st century skill that is essential for all Ugandans to empower them to be creators in today’s technology-driven economy and not just consumers.
The chairman of Blockchain Association of Uganda, Kwame Rugunda, alluded to the need to make coding an essential skill saying that the world has evolved and technology is a playing a great part in the day-to-day lives and business operations.
“Now that our country has attained political stability and it is being consolidated, the next thing is economic development and tapping into the software industry will support this,” he said.
John Seremba, a Software developer at Andela expressed concern over the unskilled ICT graduates, saying that majority are unable to do any software programming job practically.
“I was at Makerere University College of Computing where I learnt a lot of theories but zero practicals. When I came to Andela, that’s when I started putting theory into practice; everything was new,” Seremba said.
Michael Niyitegeka, an IT expert, said lecturers of ICT need to be enrolled to Andela to get practical skills in programming and software development so that they can pass on the knowledge to their students.
“In most universities when a student gets a first class degree they retain them to teach yet they just passed theory. We need them to come for such trainings boost their skills,” he said.
Maria Kyamulabye, Andela talent development manager also alluded to the skills mismatch but said that they are moving to partner with institutions of higher learning to ensure that they level up to the required international standards.