Technology

Giants eye Kenya as a coding hotspot

Coding

Coding, which is also known as programming, involves translating human intentions into commands that can be understood by computers. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A coding school in Kenya a few years ago would have been a far-fetched investment idea. But in this new era of technology and with a generation that is keen on computer programming, Moringa School on Nairobi’s Ngong Road is turning the country into a software developer’s talent pool.

“We are targeting to double revenues this year,” says Snehar Shah, the Moringa School CEO. The investment in Kenya was not by fluke because just like mobile money, the technology ecosystem is thriving.

Also, the youth are increasingly taking up non-university courses such as software development as companies like Google and Microsoft relax requirements for tech jobs.

“We have smart, young talent. This combined with good internet connectivity and students seeing the value to pay $1,500 (Sh178,500) for a five-month bootcamp, then a starting salary of $300 to $500 (Sh35,000 to Sh60,000) post-graduation, we saw Kenya as a ripe market,” he explains.

Moringa set up a vocational training institute or a bootcamp back in 2015 and the demand for classes keeps growing. Demand for software developers globally is at a record high. In Kenya, there are only 80,000 developers, a number unable to feed the throbbing tech space as global giants like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon Web Services set up their hubs in the region.

To increase the number, Moringa says it has trained 4,000 students so far and currently teaching 700 plus every quarter.

“The start-up ecosystem is flourishing and global companies that previously used to go to Eastern Europe, which is now saturated, and India, which is too expensive, are now seeing Africa as the new frontier. We have examples of graduates doing remote work from Kenya earning as much as $3,000-$5,000 (Sh360,000 to Sh600,000) per month,” Mr Shah says.

The school has attracted foreign investors including a recent investment by Proparco building on the Sh1 billion they raised from MasterCard Foundation and DOB Equity, a Dutch private equity firm focusing on growth capital and small and medium companies. With the funding, expansion means more tech experts.

The school pegs part of its success in the growth of the region’s education-technology sector. Kenya has several EdTech start-ups, including Kidato, which launched last year to offer live lessons for students up to 18 years old; Eneza Education, which enables learning through mobile technology; and e-Limu, a literacy app. The EdTech industry includes classroom assessment tools for teachers, education-specific fundraising sites, reader-adaptive e-books and more.

These start-ups aim to address problems in the education system such as overcrowding in public schools, expensive tuition fees at private schools, long commute times for students, and poorly motivated tutors among other issues.

Classes at Moringa have beginner programmers, junior software engineers, to learners who are at the managerial level and seeking new knowledge.

“Students are taught how to research, design, and write codes using various computer programming languages. In turn, they can come up with programmes or apps that are used for home or business use. This process is known as the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). It takes up to a total of 15 months to complete,” Mr Shah says.

Advanced tech skills will open earning opportunities whether for full-time jobs, the gig economy or entrepreneurs.Mr Shah says most Moringa graduates get placements in Safaricom, I&M, Andela, Sanlam, Microsoft, Cybertek, and Dalberg Data Insights upon completion.

However as techpreneurs from around the world set their eyes on the country, critics wonder about a glut. When tech hubs launched in Kenya, they attracted many learners but a majority were unable to scale their apps to the market level.

Kenyans are increasingly warming to coding schools, will they suffer the same fate? Mr Shah is optimistic. He says the digital revolution is the 4th industrial revolution. The internet and mobile phone penetration (almost 109 percent) are growing exponentially with no slowdown on the horizon.

Which sectors need coding experts?

“Apps are being developed in financial, agriculture, insurance, logistics, health technologies now there is even a sector called fem tech serving women’s needs,” he says.

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