According to the 2012 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Information Economy Report, Africa impacts just one percent of the world’s information and technology communication development. However, the continent has more than 170 million internet users and more cell phones than the U.S.
Africa basically skipped the era of wired infrastructure. Instead, we went directly to cell phones and smart phones. This means that a whole world of opportunity is open to African developers to address local needs as well as those of the rest of the world. Africa’s tremendous pool of talent simply needs to be developed and given opportunities to grow. And IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) has provided a major boost to our efforts.
I grew up in Senegal and spent my childhood taking apart everything I could get my hands on to see how they worked. Today, I’m a software architect & engineer with a decade of experience in enterprise application development. With the intent of one day putting thousands of Africans to work developing software applications, my partners and I founded Coders4Africa (C4A) in 2009. Our goal was to capitalize on our industry experience and deep understanding of the culture and needs of the IT professionals we work with to become Africa’s largest software outsourcing organization. C4A wants to serve a global customer base while building and nurturing Africa’s largest software developer network – along the way creating essential applications for the continent’s agriculture, business, consumer, education and health care markets.
C4A has local chapters in seven African countries, and provides young African coders with the infrastructure, logistics and practical experience they need to work on actual software solutions. Our process is to incubate programmers for three months as they refine their skills while working on client projects – which my permanent staff and I oversee. After the initial three-month period, our clients have the option to have us continue developing their applications, and thus far we’ve had a 100 percent adoption rate, including from clients in the U.S.
In October 2013, 14 Corporate Service Corps participants – including an IBM Distinguished Engineer – came from seven countries to Dakar to work on key transformational projects in Senegal, including C4A’s Project-Based Training initiative. Four CSC team members worked directly with C4A to augment our technical training program with business insights into design thinking and planning to move software applications from beta to finished products. In addition to helping us understand that process, these IBMers also were great role models for our students, and left us with skills-development protocols for growing
Two months later, C4A graduated from non-profit to for-profit status – the culmination of a dream that started four years ago in the minds of coders and entrepreneurs from Ghana, Kenya and Senegal. Our initial revenues have been promising, and a key factor in this early success has been our partnership with IBM. It was through our association with senior IBM cloud computing and country executives that we learned of Corporate Service Corps, which was instrumental in helping us take our latest step.
There now are young coders and entrepreneurs who have worked side-by-side with IBMers and seen the limitless possibilities of the digital world. Africa may not have been part of the industrial revolution, but we have no intention of missing the digital one. All our people need are laptops and brains to compete, and that’s just what we intend to do.
Amadou Daffe is co-founder of Coders4Africa.