While South Africa is busy becoming a global economy, driven developers are finding themselves spread thin in a growing market. Given that one in four South Africans is unemployed, it is inevitable that the current tech industry struggles with a skills shortage. One way in which this dilemma is being solved is through South African coder training initiatives such as Hyperion Development, which brings coding to low-income earners outside major cities, as well as providing cushioning for competitive developers to enhance their skill-sets. The Cape Town-based Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) uses e-learning and placement support to train unemployed young people through their CapaCiTi project. Nigeria and Kenya are other powerful African economies where similar start-ups have gathered traction, such as the Lagos-born Andela and Moringa School based in Nairobi.
However, South Africa still has a tough journey ahead in terms of strengthening the link between skills development and job creation: this is where internships can be used as platforms for people who are new to the industry, and actual coding experience can become more valuable than traditional qualifications. After all, you learn through working, and sometimes traditional education simply can’t prepare you for the world of work.
Initiatives like Africa Code Week and #BornToCode are making strides in bringing digital literacy to Africa, which ultimately encourages young people to immerse themselves in the workforce, with long-term goals in mind. Another way to close the gap in the market is by learning what skills are in demand, and then empowering oneself through education. This is where online education has revolutionised the tech industry in countries like the USA and UK, where self-taught developers are quickly absorbed into the workforce right alongside their traditionally-educated peers. HyperionDev offers a number of in-demand online bootcamps that are helping to fill the tech demand in South Africa.
A difficult task that prospective employees face in South Africa is the disconnect between talented developers and great tech companies. The South African job market still relies heavily on a secretive recruitment process which doesn’t share enough information with applicants about their role, and applicants are consequently faced with many questions to which there are no readily available answers. For instance, will the developer be working from a cramped office cubicle all day for minimum pay, or does the role barely include any programming at all. It will take years for South Africa to be as savvy as the likes of Silicon Valley or London, but there are recruitment initiatives that are trying to bridge the gap by making it easier to access job opportunities in the tech industry.
South African company OfferZen launched specifically to address this problem for developers, and only takes on tech companies that explain what the role of the developer is, as well as providing developers with more information about their job (such as salary) upfront. Other African companies like Kuhustle and Duma also connect developers with businesses, and the popularity of recruiting developers in this way suggests a future shift away from the traditional method of applying blindly to many jobs and hoping for the best.