African Tech Roundup: 6 Quotes on Sourcing Developers in Africa

BY Tunga · 4 MIN READ

Tunga founder Ernesto Spruyt on African Tech Roundup podcast

There is a major shortage of software developers around the world. According to the Wall Street Journal, international tech companies are now discovering the African continent as an untapped source of tech talent. Last fall Tunga-founder Ernesto Spruyt was on the African Tech Roundup podcast to discuss these developments. And about the role of Tunga in helping to unlock Africa’s tech talent potential. Here are six of the most outstanding quotes…

1. “There is a shortage of around 1 million ICT workers in the EU.”

“According to the EU, there is a shortage of around 1 million ICT workers there. So, for a small company to have flexible access to software development at an affordable price is rather impossible. It is always a hassle to work with freelancers. You can never mobilize them at the moment that you need them. And they are generally very expensive.

So, my first goal with Tunga was to solve that. And the way I wanted to solve that was to circumvent all the problems that we experience with traditional freelancer marketplaces. There you find mostly one-off transactions. Every time you begin a new one to search for the talent that you need. The idea behind Tunga was to enable companies to find good developers and connect to them before they actually need them. So that you can build a social network. And when your network is robust enough, and you need somebody, then the chance that somebody is available when you actually need them is much bigger. That was the idea.”

2. “Africa, in many fields, is ahead in terms of innovation.”

“I have a background in development aid and working in Africa. As a result, I thought that it would be really great if we could find those developers in Africa. But at that moment, I didn’t know whether there was a big enough community of developers in Africa. I just researched, and I was positively surprised about the developments. I found out that Africa, in many fields, is ahead in terms of innovation. Because you are just skipping generations of technology the West has been using.”

“I came in contact with a Dutch design studio called Butterfly Works. They had been involved in an organisation called The Bits Academy, which is a curriculum for digital design. And which had been rolled out via several IT schools throughout Africa.

There are seven Bits schools in six countries in East Africa predominantly (have since expanded). And they had an Alumni community of around 6,000–7,000 alumni. Not all software developers, but a substantial part of that software developers.

That answered my question of whether there are enough developers on the continent. Yes, there are. And for them, it was exciting because, since they were involved in education, if you educate people, it’s also nice if you can provide them with well-paying work after that. And that’s when we decided to team up.”

3. “The bottleneck is not coding skills, but what we call ‘soft skills.”

“How can we tap this potential? This untapped potential that there is in the African continent? I think that everything — all those initiatives are helpful. So you see, you have 30,000 applications to Andela, and they only hire 75 or 150. Then that tells me that there is below that segment a huge opportunity, right? As for Code Academy, I can say that my experience is that there are already a lot of good people who can write good code in Africa. That’s not the bottleneck from our perspective. From our perspective, the bottleneck is called ‘soft skills.'”

4. “Tunga is about using technology to bridge cultural differences.”

“Suppose I have somebody from, let’s say, Kampala. Who has never been outside of Uganda, who has never worked for western clients? How is this person going to learn to make a client happy who is from a different culture? And who has very specific demands in terms of how they want to run projects, how they want to run processes, right? So, the challenge is much more in bridging cultures. That is to say, into bridging communication differences and approaches to project management.”

“We are working with medium-sized companies mostly. Especially those that have a significant budget for software development. They often have some experience with software outsourcing. And they are interested in a flexible layer around their core team. Further, they want to build longer-term relationships with freelancers that are available flexibly.

In theory, you can go to the platform, create an account and post and start making connections with developers, and post tasks and projects. In practice, we see a lot of people just approaching us and sending us an email. Then we get into contact, we try to understand their needs, and we try to onboard them. In general, we help them as much as possible with onboarding them, getting the right coders, helping them set out their first tasks, etc.”

5. “The key to success for African coders is to be able to understand the client’s needs truly.”

“After living in Russia, I realized that I had built up a valuable skill. And that was to be able to understand two different, really distinct cultures.

So, for me, it’s very much about creating common ground. Also, using technology and using the platform to help bridge the culture. And the differences in how they prefer to communicate, as opposed to taking the best practice from, let’s say, the West and trying to impose it on people with a totally different background. Or the other way around. So I think that being able to understand and value cultural differences and how to bridge them, that would be the quality that is most valuable to me in this project.”

Our advice to our developers is to hook up with other people in your own environment who have this experience. Organize meet-ups or visit meet-ups where you can meet those type of people. Because these people, they are the ones who can understand you and the client. In the end, this is about being able to understand the client. And for that, you need to suck up all the experience you can get, and the lowest threshold is to find people in your own environment with that experience. For me, this is all about learning — now we come back to my hospitality background. So professionally, I never did anything with my hospitality education. But if you learn something in hotel school, it is to be focused on your customer’s needs.”

6. “Andela and Tunga share the same goal but have different approaches.”

“So first of all, about Andela, I think it’s a great initiative. And we have been in contact with them. We definitely, play into the same trend and have similar missions, if you will. But our approach with Tunga is very different, so I would rather, from a market perspective I would rather see us as complimentary than as competitive.”

“But if you compare, let’s say, Fiverr and Andela, they are both two ends of the spectrum, right? So you have one Andela, which is more catering for companies with big budgets. And the other one, Fiverr, is the bottom end. Which are mostly one-off transactions with meager budgets, etc. We are aiming for, let’s say, the middle market.”

Check out the full interview here on the SoundCloud channel of the African Tech Roundup podcast.

There you have 6 quotes about Africa as an untapped source of software developers. We want to read your thoughts on this, so feel free to drop a line or two in the comments or on our Linkedin page.