The Nigerian software industry may not have born at the turn of the century as it is widely believed; the pioneers go as far back as the 1950s when Nigeria first discovered oil.
Oluwafemi Bankole, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Big Cabal Media disclosed this at the launch of the “Power of X” campaign by Andela Nigeria.
“Nigeria’s software industry is not 10 years,” he said. “Everything happening right now has happened before.”
Before it became popular, Shell and a few oil companies had sought to establish a local software company led by Don Etiebet to attract local talents in the country. The development encouraged companies like Tranter IT which came years later and has raked in millions of naira software IT management for big organisations.
“That period failed because the education system could not keep up,” Bankole said.
Till today, the Nigerian academia is still largely absent in terms of playing a significant role in growing software talents in the country. Software development – a process by which standalone or individual software is created using a specific programming language – is seen as a critical component of growing the Nigerian economy given that technology innovations will nearly not be possible without it. Hence, many countries in the world are heavily investing resources in developing talents – software engineers – to power the new industry.
“Software engineering can solve about 70 per cent of problems in Africa,” says Prosper Otemuyiwa, a former technical writer at Andela and co-founder of Eden and ForloopAfrica.
New players like Andela are making frantic efforts to bridge the talent gap. While the company may want more people to be part of its training programme, the rigorousness of the process ensures that only about 0.7 per cent of the total number of applicants is selected in any cycle.
Seni Sulyman, former country manager and currently vice president operations at Andela once told BusinessDay in an interview that the startup receives over 3,000 applications and at the end, it probably picks about 15 people.
“There are multiple stages along the way, so there is a test that people take online that measures their IQ levels and problem solving skills. It is like a psychometric test and then we also have other value based tests because we want to see if people have integrity, are collaborative and fit into the culture here. After that, we screen them and invite a few of them to interview.
In a typical cycle, we go from about 3,000 applications to about 150 invited to real life interviews. From the interviews we cut down to about 60 people who would then be invited to the bootcamp,” Sulyman said.
While it may seem too intense, the process has largely paid off for the company as its engineers are some of the most sought after in the tech ecosystem in Africa and around the world.
“The most effective way to become the best in your field is to work on the most complex problems and work alongside the best people. Andela’s value proposition is that our engineers work on global problems, within global teams, and are connected to the best engineering community in Africa. By this, we are empowering people to grow exponentially and accelerate their careers” says Omowale David-Ashiru, Country Director, Andela Nigeria.
Jolomi Otumara, director, Developer Programs at Andela said there is still a huge talent gap and definitely not a problem the company alone can tackle.
Africa needs more startups like Andela. Otemuyiwa said providing adequate funding can go a long way to help startups with such ambitions.
“People like to imitate; they just copy and paste and before you know it there is a proliferation of Andelas,” he said. He acknowledged that the quality could be different but in time the talents can catch up with their peers in Andela.
“We need funding to have a lot of these companies doing what Andela is doing,” he said.