The Andela Effect
A week ago, on Sep 17th, Andela made an announcement that shook the Sub- Saharan(SS) African tech community. They announced that they would be shutting down junior developer training in Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda, 3 of its 4 campuses. This decision impacted over 400 developers across these 3 campuses. They also announced that they would be adjusting their business model to focus on finding and placing more senior-level tech talent. Also attached to these big changes was the first release of their income figures indicating that they will surpass $50M in annual revenues for 2019. In light of these recent developments, here’s what I think about Andela and how I think the recent release of these 400 junior developers will affect the tech ecosystem of SS Africa.
Andela launched in Lagos in 2014 to train local entry-level developers to be globally competitive and place them on four-year contracts to outsource their skills to clients, mainly in the US. What this did to the developer community in SS Africa as a whole was largely unprecedented. For the first time in SS Africa, there was a consistent creation of quality tech talent as well as a direct channel between that talent and the rest of the world who knew the true value of tech talent. Andela opened the eyes of SS African locals to the financial springboard that being able to code provides, helped them to become technically proficient, and then helped them reap the (financial) value of being able to code. The supply of talented individuals interested in learning how to code quickly skyrocketed past Andela’s demand for fellows, leading those who couldn’t get into Andela to do things like self teach, attend boot camps, join/create developer circles and so on in order to learn the skills necessary to join the tech revolution that was beginning in SS Africa.
As more and more SS Africans learned to code, it wasn’t long before startup activity in these regions started to get a bit interesting. SS Africa was represented in YCombinator(YC), the most prestigious startup accelerator in the world, for the first time in YC’s 2016 Winter batch(W16). This was around 2 years after Andela was founded. This class of SS African startups comprised of Shypmate and PayStack(W16) heralded a new age for startup activity in SS Africa. Since then, companies like Helium Health(S17), Kudi(W17), BuyCoins(S18), CowryWise(S18), Kobo360(S18), Schoolable(W19), and so on have joined the fast-growing group of African startups supported by YC.
While this is a strong signal of the quality of startups coming out of SS Africa, it only paints a part of the picture. Other successful early-stage SS African startups like PiggyVest and CodeLn have leveraged local resources in SS Africa to achieve their growth. This signals the growth of a previously non-existent infrastructure to support African entrepreneurs. Local programs like MEST and CCHub, and funding sources like Microtraction and Neon Ventures now provide SS African founders with the kind of support and resources needed to survive the treacherous waters of the early days of a startup, improving their likelihood of success.
For all of this growth and activity, there was a catalyst; Andela. They showed people that knowing how to code was valuable. They showed people that building a successful tech business in SS Africa was possible. They opened the floodgates of a phenomenon I call “The Andela Effect”. In the release of these 400 engineers this past week, Andela has once more catalyzed the SS African tech ecosystem, and I believe that we will soon begin experiencing wave 2 of the Andela effect in SS Africa. These developers will go to work on projects that will turn into startups. These developers will go work for other SS African startups, helping them grow quicker. These developers will push the next wave of SS African startups.