Peter Kakoma on the 2021 job market for African developers

BY Kees Kranendonk · 4 MIN READ

Ugandan developer Peter Kakoma is a real inspiration. An industry veteran and innovator, a talented programmer and entrepreneur, and a truly compassionate human being, he was recently nominated as a 2021 African Business Hero top 50 finalist. Tunga’s Viola Nuwaha and Roger Kaweesa caught up with him.

Man of many talents

Peter is a man of many talents. An electrical engineer and self-made developer and entrepreneur, who at one time wrote for a newspaper. But he is also a church leader and a dedicated husband and father. At the Ugandan branch of telecoms giant MTN, Kakoma started as an engineer, building apps to make his work easier. When the opportunity arose to use his programming skills, he grabbed it with both hands. And from thereon, he became a team leader. Peter was also one of the first four hires at Andela Uganda – at a time when the company did not even have an actual office in Uganda yet!

Despite an exciting career at prestigious employers, Peter wanted more – but not just for himself. In 2014, he founded Kanzu Code, a company he leads to this date.  Kanzu Code targets the global financial industry, offering its own financial business tools as well as building on-demand custom solutions.

Creating opportunities for Ugandans

Peter had two main reasons for wanting to launch his own enterprise. Working at MTN, he soon realized that the company sourced virtually all software from foreign providers. This, while there was enough Ugandan talent able to deliver such tools. It just did not sit right with him – so he tried to find a way to show the world that solid software could be built on the continent.

“The bigger the problem you are exposed to,

the better you get at it”

His developer team at MTN was only small, but produced tools for millions of customers. The projects were challenging and Peter learned a lot: “The bigger the problem you are exposed to, the better you get at it”. But to his regret, Peter saw that only he and his direct colleagues got to enjoy these chances. He felt he needed to address this gap and “create opportunities for people to grow in the field of software.”


Peter Kakoma at Tunga's Dev Hour

Changes in the African tech industry

Peter Kakoma has more than earned his spurs in the tech industry. When he started, African developers were limited to writing PHP scripts. The advance of the internet and remote work was a big game-changer. These days, developers can work from Africa to deliver value to a client abroad and earn an income. “Working for Tunga, that’s massive. These things were unheard of back then. The African developer, the African engineer didn’t have that kind of appreciation globally. You didn’t exist.”

It is now also easier to begin a start-up and acquire funding. All major global tech players have set up shop in Africa. Peter waxes lyrically: “There are still a lot of things that can be improved, but none of those things were available back then.”

Leveraging opportunities for today’s developers

Covid-19 has done away with any apprehension about remote processes, and African developers are well-positioned. So how can today’s programmers make the most of their opportunities? The tech entrepreneur recommends starting with one language and gaining mastery. Go deep. Get some solid projects under your belt in that language, because “this thing is all about projects”.

“This thing is all about projects”

And once you know that language inside out, you may get the opportunity to do a paid project in another language. If you can’t get paid work, for example through an outstaffer like Tunga, find an open-source software project to dig into, or start your own pet project.

When Viola broaches the topic of soft skills, Peter gets very animated. He emphasizes the importance of being responsive, of communicating openly and honestly. Meeting deadlines and sticking to agreements. Peter challenges the stereotype of the loner: in the current remote environment, everything is about being a social person who helps their team grow.

Honestly, Peter Kakoma shares so many pearls of wisdom in this Dev Hour, too many to list them all here. His drive and passion are truly contagious. So take the time to listen and get inspired. Whether Peter wins the title of African Business Hero or not, he’s already a hero of mine.