The internet economy in Africa has the potential to reach $180 billion by 2025, accounting for 5.2 per cent of the continent’s GDP. In another 25 years, this number could rise to $712 billion, or 8.5 per cent of the continent’s GDP. Increased access to high-quality internet connectivity, a thriving startup ecosystem, and a growing tech talent pool are factors driving this growth.
In recent years, the tech ecosystem in Nigeria and Africa has experienced exponential growth. However, this growth is not equivalent to the number of tech talent in the ecosystem. The burgeoning tech sector is running short on tech talent, forcing companies to compete for the available few. Worse, foreign firms with better offers attract the few available tech talents, widening the tech talent gap.
In Nigeria, where the unemployment rate is a dismal 33.30 per cent as of the fourth quarter of 2020, the teeming young population is rapidly embracing digital skills to be gainfully employed. Nonetheless, the tech talent gap persists. To address this deficit, Yusuf Adewale, CEO and co-founder of TalentQL launched AltSchool Africa. AltSchool Africa is a non-traditional institution for people interested in learning technical skills and launching a career in software engineering. A background in technology or computer science is not a prerequisite to attending the institution.
Attendance lasts nine months, followed by a three-month internship with TalentQL clients across Nigeria, Africa, and the world to gain experience. At the end of the learning period, participants are awarded a diploma certificate in software engineering from AltSchool Africa in affiliation with a reputable and accredited university. Training of this magnitude is often expensive, creating a barrier for interested participants who are financially unable to participate. So to increase the number of beneficiaries, AltSchool does not charge tuition. However, participants pay an application fee of N10,000 ($20). Afterwhich, AltSchool provides resources to help them prepare for an assessment. “Once you get through this stage, we will invest in you to ensure you learn with us and get your internship,” Adewale told Ventures Africa.
A robust curriculum that combines theoretical knowledge with real-world applications offers participants a chance to become software engineers in front-end engineering, back-end engineering, or cloud engineering. Participants are required to pay a total of $500 via an Income Sharing Agreement (ISA) after completing the program and receiving permanent placements. The payment will be in the form of a percentage over a set period.
Scheduled to start in April 2022, the programme incorporates a virtual learning process supported by Community Peering Learning (CPL). In explaining what CPL means, Adewale argued that education has progressed beyond simply bringing everyone together in one place. “We find a way to educate people in their communities. Your classmates will be people close to you, and you will be able to socialize and learn with them. We believe that we are entering a period in which the community will become increasingly important, that is why we have decided to do the same for education,” he said.
Speaking on challenges faced in this venture, Adewale said it has been demanding, but he is taking a chance on Nigeria. “As a serial entrepreneur, I understand how difficult the business can be. I am never worried, and all of the regrets I should have are what I have been dealing with for years. I now see them as opportunities. The journey has been difficult, but we are betting on Nigeria,” he said.
AltSchool applications are not limited to Nigerians. Although Adewale declined to reveal the number of participants the school currently has, he did say that people are applying from all over Africa. TalentQL’s reputation for connecting software engineers from Africa to different parts of the world foregrounds his confidence in AltSchool that people will rise to the occasion. A parent company in the United States, Canada, Rwanda, and Nigeria, assures a global reach.
Adewale’s goal for AltSchool Africa is to find a direct or indirect way to impact a million talents over the next five years and to have excess supply in the market so that people can earn money.
Written by Adekunle Agbetiloye