Four years ago, CODERS4AFRICA (C4A), the largest network of African software developers and one of the most promising African software outsourcing companies, was featured in the 2012 Information Economy Report prepared by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The report revealed that Africa only impacted about 3% of the $1.3 trillion USD in global IT revenue. Yet Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent—with 1.2 billion people, it accounts for 15% of the global population.
With little funding, C4A took on the challenge to get more Africans involved in the global IT economy by helping to produce African software developers who could shape a true African IT industry. C4A helped train hundreds of coders in Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, and Ethiopia. But we needed to train many more and to provide job opportunities for them.
In April 2016, Amadou Daffe, the CEO and co-founder of C4A and a native of Senegal, travelled to Silicon Valley to find investors interested in scaling C4A into an aggressive, Pan-African startup. Only Hiruy Amanuel, a young investor and self-made entrepreneur of Ethiopian origin, stood out. Hiruy’s grandfather, Kenyasmach Yikunoamlak Desta, fought in the Italian invasion in 1935. He was a patriot who fought for the rights and the liberty of his people. Amadou’s father, Mamadou Daffe, has dedicated his career to creating sustainable agricultural engineering systems throughout West Africa through his company, IDEV-ic. With these roots, it was clear from the beginning that both men shared a burning passion for the same idea: that it is time for Africa to take control of its own destiny.
“We were brainstorming on how we could contribute to Africa’s destiny—Hiruy as an investor and I as a technologist. Hiruy mentioned that he had always wanted to build a school in Ethiopia. Being from Silicon Valley, it took me literally five minutes to sell him on why a software engineering academy coupled with a platform that would match graduates with clients would be extremely valuable in Ethiopia and duplicable across other African countries,” said Amadou.
The concept was initially dubbed “DaaS” (Developer as a Service) before its name was changed to “Gebeya,” which means “marketplace” in Amharic. Gebeya was born as an extension of C4A in Ethiopia, with offices in Kenya and the USA.
We are launching the IT Academy Training program in Ethiopia, which has a population of nearly 100 million, of which 75% are youth. Our strategy is to make Ethiopia the headquarters for the IT Academy Training hub and graduate approximately 5,000 students in the next five years. The training will begin in mid-September 2016. We will begin accepting applications from candidates in July 2016 and will offer partial and full scholarships to selected individuals.
Gebeya’s marketing team will be based in Kenya, as it has one of the highest demands for software developers in Africa and is home to the African headquarters of many Fortune 500 companies. This provides opportunities to accelerate customer acquisition and because the distribution channel is an online marketplace, we will reach IT professionals throughout the continent.
Our purpose is to develop African IT talent while providing an online IT services marketplace for the African and global business market. We also seek to expand our students’ IT skills, eliminate tech hardware and software needs for our clients, increase opportunities for African IT professionals, and reduce IT developmental and operational costs so more Africans can utilize these services. Africa may have missed the Industrial Revolution, but its youth have no intention of missing the digital one.