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Female developers in Africa are starting to catch up - Tunga

Female developers in Africa are starting to catch up

BY Kees Kranendonk

Tunga’s mission is to unleash Africa’s tech talent. We believe in a world where every human being enjoys the same opportunities to get the most out of their life. That’s why in recent years, we’ve deliberately invested in coding courses for people in a disadvantaged position, including aspiring female African coders. We feel there is still a lot of work to be done, but it certainly appears young African females are discovering software development as a career worth pursuing!

Mixed data on the share of female developers    

Strangely enough – considering the amount of attention the topic gets in the media – there’s no definitive data on the number of female coders worldwide, let alone in Africa. SlashData estimates that at the start of 2021, there were 24.3 million active software developers in the world. The analyst of the developer economy does not give an indication of how many of them were female, but tells us that 20% of its 19k+ survey respondents were women. That, by the way, is a dramatic increase from the reported 9% just two years earlier.

With regards to Africa, a study by IFC/Google from 2020 stated there are 700,000 coders on the African continent of which 21% would be women. However, this estimate is generally regarded as highly unreliable by industry insiders.

Research by Tunga revealed that the share of female software developers in Sub-Saharan Africa is in the area of 2-3%. For the entire continent, it is substantially higher – more like 7-8% – which is mainly due to the relatively high number of female coders active in Northern Africa (particularly Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt).

Female coders catching up

The good news is that we see a clear increase in the number of female developers in the Tunga developer pool. It now contains 750+ devs, 7% of which are woman coders. We see this as a sign that females are catching up on global trends.

One of them is Joyce Namuli, who is a remote frontend developer for digital freight forwarding platform Shypple.

Speaking from Kampala, Uganda, Joyce tells us that she’s had a passion for problem-solving and engineering from an early age. She is fascinated by things that move and dislikes routine matters. Growing up, she was confronted with stereotypes about what girls should and should not do. One persistent idea was that girls should steer clear of technology. Joyce’s mother, however, always supported her in the pursuit of her passion.

While these stereotypes are being torn down and Joyce sees more female devs around her, there remains a lot to be done. Joyce believes that, for starters, many Africans are unaware of the possibilities of online tech work. Girls especially need to be empowered and supported at grassroots level. Joyce feels that any organized initiative should be executed by truly dedicated people who are not just there to collect their money. Established female developers should support newcomers and there is a need for networks, support, meetups and freely accessible platforms.

Female developers welcome at Tunga

Joyce got her shot as a dev at Andela in 2017, after completing an Aptech scholarship program. When the company shut the doors of its Kampala branch, she started freelancing. Discouraged by the problems surrounding payment in Africa, she looked at Tunga. She had already been part of the Tunga community before she decided to start coding for the outstaffer.

Joyce praises the benefits of working for Tunga: “Tunga sorts you out.” Payment is straightforward and inexpensive. Tunga provides a coder community that offers support. When Joyce reaches out for help with a problem, for example, fellow techheads on the platform respond within minutes. She also lauds the managers who act as intermediaries between the remote dev and the client. They enable optimal communication and manage mutual expectations.

“Tunga sorts you out”

Prompted for disadvantages, Joyce is sure to stress that this does not apply to her or client Shypple (on the contrary!), but she knows that some colleagues working remotely for certain companies are not always accepted as equals. There are clients out there that do not take their remote worker on board as a proper employee.

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Empowerment in progress: participants of the first Tunga Women in Tech course

While Joyce initially lacked some confidence when dealing with Western companies, this is no longer the case. She found that, as long as she performs, she gets her place at the table: “Any employer really just needs good code.” One thing that helps her stay in shape is to not fret about her gender. “Forget who you are and code your heart out.”

“Forget who you are and code your heart out”

Joyce hopes that more girls and woman with a passion for tech will follow their dreams. If you feel that passion, you must know that it is true and valid – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: “Follow your heart”. At the same time, she has a critical note: “It’s nice that we hire women, but let’s hire very good women.”

Start your coding career today

As mentioned earlier, Tunga has developed a women-only course. The outstaffer partners with Kampabits and Ekobits/Edobits for its execution. Since the first edition, now more than two years ago, more than 60 girls and women graduated from the program. Founder Ernesto Spruyt says he’s noticed that, even after finishing the course, some participants need to acquire more skills. That is why Tunga is working hard on the development of a new course that will help aspiring devs (male and female!) to bridge that final gap.

The gender of our software developers  is not really a big thing for our clients

Almost half of Tunga’s own staff is female and many of them work in the talent sourcing department. When I ask Ernesto whether clients care about the gender of their remote developers, he is very clear; “The gender of our software developers  is not really a big thing for our clients.” So what’s holding you back? Get out there and follow your dream!

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But hey, a little bit of help goes a long way. There are various sites and networks you can check out and use. Of course, you can start your quest with Tunga. We offer various initiatives and programs to help develop African tech talent. For the Uganda-based ladies, Joyce Namuli pointed us towards this program. You may find support from a local chapter of She Code Africa – or even start one yourself! Watch this site for info on the new edition of the Vogue developer accelerator program for young female Africans. Find resources for black women coders here. Or get inspired by these ten Nigerian femtechs. We hope to have helped you on your way – let’s create some seriously good statistics together!

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Tunga has started a women-only software development course in Uganda

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Video: Advanced female coding classes started by Tunga

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