Mapping the African Tech Ecosystem

The African Tech ecosystem is indubitably an exciting place to be in. In this article, we explore different facets of the African tech space.

Agnes Nduta

May 3, 2022 · 10 min read

Mapping the African Tech Ecosystem

Our company expanding into Africa, starting with Nairobi. Yes, we are now in Africa, and we are growing fast. This has led us to really explore the African tech space. The following are some insights we find interesting.

The African Tech ecosystem is indubitably an exciting place to be in. Africa is the undisputed home of the mighty M-PESA. And we haven’t even begun scratching the surface of the exponential start-up funding growth - $4.65 billion in 2021

And yes, big tech is continuing to expand into Africa - Google’s product development center recently launched in Nairobi, the second after Ghana’s AI and research center. Microsoft’s African Development Centre was also officially launched in Nairobi, and Oracle recently opened a Research Lab in Morocco as part of the expansion of its global R&D program.

In this article, we explore different facets of the African tech space - the distribution of engineering and developer talent on the continent, the most used programming languages, the most sought-after technologies, and tech stacks, talent acquisition and retention with big tech setting up offices in Africa, and even open-source.

The Distribution of Engineering and Developer Talent on the Continent

There are about 700K software developers on the whole African continent, with over 50% in 5 countries - Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Morocco.

The Africa Developer Ecosystem Report 2021 classifies the African continent’s regions based on the software talent trajectory they are on.

African continent’s regions software talent trajectory Image Source

South Africa has been steadily growing; Egypt, Nigeria, and Kenya are fast sprinting towards growth; and Morocco, Rwanda, and Ghana are fostering the growth landscape. Tunisia, Algeria, Ivory Coast, and Senegal were categorized as emerging markets; and Ethiopia, Cameroon, Uganda, Tanzania, and Mozambique are nascent markets (where they are tackling challenges to foster growth).

There are more professional developers in the advancing and steadily growing markets (these countries have the most engineers).

Developer and Engineering Talent Based on Gender, Age, and Professional Experience

Developer and Engineering Talent Based on Gender, Age, and Professional Experience Image Source

Most of the African developers are junior level (46%), followed by mid-level (32%) with senior being the least of the developer population (22%)

Most African developers are male (85%) with females being only 15%. The average age of an African developer is 29 (compared to the global average of 36)

What are the Most Used Programming Languages in Africa?

According to the 2022 Africa Developer Survey by Andela, whose participants were primarily developers in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, Javascript (69%) and Python (45%) are the most used programming languages.

React (47.1%) and Angular (36.8%) are the most used Front-end Javascript frameworks. Here is the distribution of the other Javascript frontend frameworks and libraries:

js libraries and frameworks Image Source

And popular Javascript backend frameworks and libraries:

js libraries and frameworks Image Source

What Are the Most In-demand Technologies and Tech Stacks?

According to the Africa Developer Ecosystem Report 2021 the most in-demand technologies and tech stacks are in Web Development and Data Analysis. This is because a lot of businesses accelerated their tech adoption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and African startups have received lots of funding in 2021 - $4bn.

So, what are the technologies and tech stacks that employers are looking for in the African market in 2022?

Job adverts are one way to determine the tech stacks and languages businesses and organizations are looking for. used data from popular job sites and Stack overflow to find the languages with the most job ads listed. Here are the results:

  • The most advertised languages were Python, SQL, and Java. Python had 84,000 open positions. SQL was advertised alongside other languages.
  • Javascript and C++ also made it to the top 5.
  • However, when factors like the highest-paid technologies are considered, some really ‘old’ languages are in the top 5.
  • Therefore, the top 5 languages are: Perl, Ruby, C++, Python, and SQL.

What Does Talent Acquisition and Retention Look Like in Africa?

Overall, there was a 3.8% increase in the developer population between 2020 and 2021.

yoy developer growth Image Source

The steadily growing markets have a thriving startup ecosystem where over 50% of the developers work.

In cultivating and emerging markets, junior developers work in early-stage startups. This is because startups are willing to take the time to train on the skills gaps and work with newer technologies, which are interesting to junior developers.

African Developers are Big on Remote Work

This shift was heavily influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic, and now, over 80% of respondents in the Andela survey work remotely, partially (37%), or fully (39%). This way, they can explore all the opportunities in tech without a major shift in their lives.

In fact, African developers expect tech opportunities to be remote.

yoy developer growth Image Source

With international companies now hiring remotely (10 to 20% increase in demand since 2020), African developers also expect to work for international companies. International companies are more likely to be remote.

What Effect Will Big Tech’s Presence Have in the African Tech Space?

In addition to international companies, local companies now have to compete with big tech in their local environments too.

“Firstly everyone wants to move to big tech at the moment meaning it's very quite difficult for the local companies to compete for new talent and retain the current talent they have.”

“This then makes it clear that the companies need to ensure that the talent they have is happy in regards to compensation, growth, and other benefits.” Velda Kiara Software Developer {Django(Python) and React(JS)} and Twitter Developer Insider.

According to Velda, local companies can still compete if they, “offer competitive compensation, close to what the big tech companies are offering, provide growth opportunities, and maintain remote work or offer a hybrid work model."

Where or How Do you Access Tech Talent in Africa?

There are several options to access tech talent in Africa. The main ones are coding boot camps and programs, job placement networks, and outsourced recruiting.

Coding Boot Camps and Community Programs

coding boot camps Image Source

Most coding boot camps and community programs, for example, Moringa School (Kenya), SheHacks Africa (Nigeria), the Andela Learning Community (ALC), and Semicolon (Nigeria) are well connected to the local tech ecosystem. This makes it easier for them to have access to potential employers that can absorb their graduates.

So, if you are looking for junior developers, coding boot camps and programs are the places to go.

It gets trickier when you are looking for mid to senior-level developers. What are the options?

Talent Networks

These are companies with talent pools. Employers will work with them when they are looking for mid to senior talent. Some of these networks include Andela (Andela changed their model from training African developers and placing them with global clients. Only their ALC arm handles training), (the Netherlands, Nigeria, and Uganda), Decagon (Nigeria), and Gebeya (Ethiopia). They charge placement fees.

Tech-talent Outsourcers

Unlike talent networks, tech-talent outsourcers do not necessarily have talent pools. They however are made up of teams of software engineers who know exactly what to search for when looking for talent.

Also, tech-talent outsourcers might take over tech interviews and challenges and relieve companies of that workload.

Some of them might only source the tech talent, leaving the entrepreneurs or internal HR departments to do the rest of the recruiting.

They charge placement and/or recruiting fees depending on the extent of their services. They do have talent pools for developer roles/talent that they have hired before.

They are more likely to hire for mid and senior-level software engineering roles and will hire full-time, hybrid, or remote software engineers for you.

How about Open Source?

road Image Source

African developers created 40% more repositories on the open-source marketplace in 2021, according to The Africa Developer Ecosystem Report 2021.

The question, therefore, is, “should companies encourage developers to contribute to open-source projects?”

“Every company in one way or another uses open source. Open source/community-driven projects tend to follow best practices and are open to criticism which means that engineers get to level up in terms of skills and knowledge thus benefitting the company in return.” Velda Kiara, Software Developer {Django(Python) and React(JS)} and Twitter Developer Insider.

“Yes and No. Open source contribution helps hone developers' skills in collaboration plus there's a lot to learn when one is contributing or managing open source projects.” Stanley Ndagi Consulting Software Engineer at Digerati.

“However, if the drive is solely from the companies their goal needs to be clear since the drive could become a management hustle if such contributions become a performance metric,” adds Stanley

In Conclusion

We have attempted to provide a high-level outlook of the tech talent ecosystem in Africa, by responding to pertinent questions like the distribution of engineering and developer talent on the continent, talent acquisition, and retention, where and how to access tech talent, and open-source.

These aspects are by no means exhaustive, but we hope that they give you an idea of what the tech space looks like in Africa.


Agnes Nduta is a content creator who creates worlds in words, empathy and code.

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