A 2021 report by Africa Developer Ecosystem, released by Google and Accenture, has noted that Africa now has 716,000 professional developers. This is a 3.8% rise from the 700,000 total population in 2020.
Of the 16 countries surveyed, more than 50% of these developers are concentrated in five key markets: Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa. It also indicated that the average income per developer rose, notwithstanding the contraction of the global economy.
Direct research on the software developer population size was conducted in 16 markets (Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda) and the findings were extrapolated to the rest of African countries.
The Africa Developer Ecosystem Report 2021 is the second in a series of studies on the state of the continent’s Internet economy.
The first was published in conjunction with the International Finance Corporation (IFC). It found that Africa’s Internet economy has the potential to reach 5.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025, contributing nearly $180 billion to Africa’s economy. And, the projected potential contribution could reach $712 billion by 2050.
According to the report, three main factors across the tech ecosystem contributed to this positive trend, including the increasing capacity of local startups to hire over half of African developers as they raised over $4 billion in 2021 – about 2.5x times more than in 2020.
The second is the increased global demand for remote tech talent, which has been accelerated by the pandemic. This has created more remote employment opportunities for African developers.
The third is the fact that local businesses increased their use of the internet and hired developers to help them grow their businesses online.
“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”says Nitin Gajria, Managing Director, Google in Africa
Africa’s developer population across the continent
With increased (+22%) use of the internet among small and medium businesses (SMBs) on the continent, the need for web development services also increased, alongside higher demand for remote development work.
38% of African developers work for at least one company based outside of the continent.
South Africa has the highest population of developers in Africa with 121,000, a 2% growth from the population of 119,000 it had in 2020. Nigeria experienced the most significant rise in population with a 6% growth (5,000 new professional developers) from 84,000 in 2020 to 89,000 in 2021.
The majority of African developers are men. A thorough breakdown indicates that 85% of developers in the region are male while 15% are female. This is a significant fall from the 79% male to 21% female gender ratio in 2020.
The report also indicates that the average African developer is seven years younger than their global counterpart, and has up to three years of experience. It also shows that African developers have strong programming experience in both web and mobile, as one in two developers builds apps for Android.
The report showed that software developer compensation rose by an average 11% in 2021 with an average earning of $23,500 in 2020, which grew to $25,500. This trend is not unique to Nigeria. The report shows that mid-to-senior level developers and professionals in advancing countries benefited most from a similar trend.
Yet, African developers are still quite small when compared with more mature ecosystems around the world. According to Evans Data, Latin America had 2,162,461 developers in 2019, with Brazil (573,400), Mexico (315,300), and Argentina (304,600) leading the region in total numbers.
In California alone, the number of software developers is 628,414, according to data from Daxx.
VC investment in African startups rebounded for good
2021 was the year of explosive venture capitalist funding in Africa. African startups raised over $4 billion in 2021, 2.5 times more than in 2020, with fintech startups making up over half of this funding.
Tech startups in the continent raised $4.6 billion in 2021 alone. This is more than the amount raised in 2020 ($1.7 billion), 2019 ($1.3 billion) and 2018 ($800 million) combined ($3.8 billion). Led by Nigeria ($307 million) and Kenya ($305 million), African 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
Interestingly, startups hire over half of Africa’s developer population. This is because “startups are often the first businesses willing to hire junior developers, providing critical on-the-job training, especially in emerging markets”.
Overall, the report shows that most African developers are self-starters. African developers use a mix of both formal and informal education channels to gain skills and access to well-paying jobs. The top two developer training pathways are through university programs and self-taught channels, such as online coding lessons and resources.
impressively, African developers created 40% more open-source repositories on the software marketplace
Remote work unlocked global opportunities for many
The shift to remote work has created more employment opportunities across time zones and continents for African developers while lifting the pay for senior talent. As a result, international companies are now recruiting African developers at record rates.
According to the report, the high demand for remote work also led to increased opportunities for many Africans. As it stands, about 38% of African developers work for at least one company headquartered outside Africa.
This comes with many exciting prospects for many. According to the report, developers who work for international companies have an average of 1.4x more years of experience than those working for local businesses. They also make 1.4x more monthly income as it is difficult
for local startups to compete with higher compensation.
Africa is a mine
The part played by regulators and enablers shows promise for the African continent. To continue growth, technology companies, educators and governments are tackling local challenges through innovative partnerships and programs.
According to the report, countries like Kenya and Nigeria have a strong commitment to empowering tech businesses and upskilling youth.
The developer ecosystem in Nigeria is thriving thanks to strong demand for developer talent, significant support from big tech, and startups raising the largest total amount of funding on the continent in 2021. As countries like Nigeria continue to transform, they will unlock more opportunities for developers who, in turn, grow the economy.
Similarly, some other countries like Morocco and Ghana have enjoyed the strongest government support in the past year. Technology regulators have made strides that shows they are focused on catching up with advancing markets and attracting investment.
Investments in infrastructure, consumption of digital services, public and private investment, and new government policies and regulations will play an important role in supporting Africa’s digital growth.
You can download the report here.
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