Female developers in Africa are Starting to Catch Up

BY Kees Kranendonk · 4 MIN READ

Tunga’s mission is to unleash Africa’s tech talent. We believe in a world where everyone 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 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 worldwide. The developer economy analyst does not indicate how many 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 2-3%. For the entire continent, it is substantially higher – more like 7-8% – mainly due to the relatively high number of female coders active in Northern Africa (particularly Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt).

Female coders are catching up.

The good news is that we see an apparent increase in 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 front-end developer for the 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. However, Joyce’s mother always supported her in pursuing her passion.

While these stereotypes are being torn down and Joyce sees more female devs around her, much remains 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 the grassroots level. Joyce feels that any organized initiative should be executed by genuinely dedicated people who are not just there to collect their money. Established female developers should support newcomers and need networks, support, meetups, and freely accessible platforms.

Female developers are 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 out staffer.

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. For example, when Joyce reaches out for help with a problem, fellow tech heads 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 their client Shypple (on the contrary!), but she knows that some colleagues working remotely for specific 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.

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 she gets her place at the table as long as she performs: “Any employer really just needs good code.” One thing that helps her stay in shape is not to fret about her gender. “Forget who you are and code your heart out.”

“Forget who you are and code your heart out.”

Joyce hopes more girls and women with a passion for tech will follow their dreams. If you feel that passion, you must know it is 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 out staffer partners with Kampabits and Ekobits/Edobits for its execution. Since the first edition more than two years ago, more than 60 girls and women have graduated from the program. Founder Ernesto Spruyt says he’s noticed that some participants need to acquire more skills even after finishing the course. That is why Tunga is working hard on developing a new course that will help aspiring devs (male and female!) bridge that final gap.

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

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


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 toward 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 this ten Nigerian femtech. We hope to have helped you on your way – let’s create some excellent statistics together!