The demand for African computer software developers reached an all-time high in 2021 on the backdrop of a global economic crisis, a new Google report reveals.
The study, Africa Developer Ecosystem Report 2021 conducted across 16 African nations, shows that despite the challenges occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, the continent’s developer ecosystem is growing.
Countries that took part in the survey are Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.
Having interviewed 1,600 software developers, Google found out that 38 percent of African developers work for at least one company based outside of the continent.
“Across the continent, the pool of professional developers increased by 3.8 percent year on year. The total number of developers in Africa is now 716,000,” the survey discloses.
Kenya, Egypt, South Africa and Tunisia each added at least 2,000 developers each in 2021, while Nigeria’s developer community grew by 5,000, a 6 percent rise from 2020. Morocco had 3,000 new software developers.
Senegal, Algeria, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Mozambique recorded 1,000 developers each, bringing the total number of new developers in the continent to 26,000.
Software developer salaries rose by an average of 11 percent in 2021. mid-to-senior level developers and professionals in advancing countries benefited most from this trend. Senior-level developers who earned Sh5.6 million per annum in 2020 earned Sh6.2 million in 2021.
With a 22 percent increase in the use of the internet among small and medium businesses on the continent, the need for web development services also ballooned alongside higher demand for remote development work.
However, an acute gender gap exists in the field, with women commanding only 15 percent of Africa’s developer ecosystem.
“The majority of African developers are men. The average local developer is seven years younger than their global counterpart and has up to three years of experience,” notes the report, adding that 80 percent of the developers are aged below 35 years.
African developers, the report says, have strong programming experience in both web and mobile, with one in two developers building apps for Android and 23 percent working on iOS projects.
African startups raised over Sh400 billion in 2021, growing by over 250 percent in 2021 over the previous year with fintech making up for over half of investments.
The report further shows that 81 percent of venture capital funding in Africa went to the top four countries with the highest population of software developers, which are Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt.
“Led by Nigeria (Sh31 billion) and Kenya (Sh30 billion), Advancing Countries secured more funding than ever in 2020, and this success has allowed their startup ecosystems to grow faster than ever and take advantage of digital transformation spurred by the pandemic.”
Startups hire over half of Africa’s developer population, and Many young developers care more about working with the latest technologies over income, the report states.
Covid-19 accelerated the shift to remote work, and international companies are now recruiting African developers at record rates, with the biggest competitor for talent being international companies looking to outsource.
Experts predict that the majority of global engineering teams will continue to work remotely post-pandemic, which bodes well for African developers, with the study revealing that only 13 percent of experts worked virtually in the pre-pandemic period compared to 74 percent now.
Developers working for international companies have an average of 1.4 times more years of experience than those working for local businesses. “They also make 1.4 times more monthly income than professionals working for local companies. It’s difficult for local startups to compete with higher compensation,” says the survey.
Twenty-two percent of Sub-Saharan African SMEs report starting or increasing use of the internet, social media, and digital platforms in 2020. Kenya boasted a highly favourable business and technology environment and increased digital adoption across sectors, with tech adoption rising from 47 percent to 71 percent.
Ahadi Movers, for instance, adopted digital tools, growing by 80 percent in 2020 with Google My Business and Google Ads despite the shrinking economy.
“If there was no Google My Business, I don’t think we’d be in business today. My confidence has grown over the last five years. We want to be the most preferred moving and relocation company in Kenya,” says Victor Rasugu, CEO of Ahadi Movers.
Web development and data analysis are in especially high demand as businesses go online for the first time. The report shows that African developers use PHP 13 percent more than the global average, 8 percent more on Angular and 6 percent more on HTML/CSS.
But Nitin Gajria, managing director at Google Africa observes that while Africa’s tech innovation sector is making great strides, global tech companies, educators and governments can do more to ensure that the industry becomes a strategic economic pillar.
“At Google, we are intent on further igniting training and support for this community by bridging the existing developer skills gap and concentrating our efforts in upskilling female developers who face pointed challenges,” he said.
Following a series of initiatives including developer advocacy, startup acceleration, training programmes, and global technical mentorship that the company has implemented over the last 10 years, Google said it aims to train 100,000 developers across the continent by 2022.
To date, the African continent is home to more than 150 active Google Developer Groups and 100 developer student clubs. Combined, these groups reach over 200,000 community members in 40 of the 48 countries in the Sub-Saharan African region.
This year’s report is the second in a series of studies on the state of the continent’s Internet economy.
The first, published in conjunction with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), found that Africa’s Internet economy has the potential to reach 5.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025, contributing nearly Sh19 trillion to Africa’s economy and Sh74 trillion by 2050.
“In order to reach this potential, we have to provide better access to high-quality, world-class skills on mobile technologies platforms coupled with increasing connectivity in Africa. Our effort to increase connectivity is focused on infrastructure, devices, tools and product localisation,” adds Gajria.
Despite the increase in average developer pay in 2021 by 11 percent, junior developers saw a 9 percent pay decrease as a result of the oversupply of junior developers and perceived lower competence levels.
Women developers faced more challenges than men, given their more junior positions and the lack of childcare support during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Women are 12 percent less likely to have written their first line of code before turning 18 than male developers,” the report says.
But educators, tech companies, and governments, the report notes, can help developers succeed by improving internet access, education, business support and cloud tools.