By Anja Schlösser, Co-founder & Managing Director at Code of Africa – The company’s journey started in 2017/18 when two of our Co-founders were mentoring young entrepreneurs – most of them based in Rwanda. The rising eco-system in the ICT sector pushed and accompanied by the government, with educational institutions like the African Leadership University (ALU), Carnegie Mellon University or Andela on-site in Kigali, Rwanda showcased what most of us Europeans don’t have on the radar: A tech ecosystem on the move, nurtured by the individual eagerness to achieve something great, world-class academic institutions and highly supported by the government in one of the safest countries on the continent.
The Code Of Africa business model
The idea behind our company is generating positive social and economic impacts while accelerating these through a profit motive – by making the tech talent hub East Africa (with focus on Rwanda and Kenya) available to the demand market in the DACH region. We bootstrap CoA because we believe in sustainable growth and want to maintain the freedom to make our own decisions – even if that means going a slower pace. Each new project pays the salaries of the next talents we take on board, while we provide reserve funds for
training measures, health insurance or individual saving schemes. The experience since our start in March 2019 confirms our assumptions and concerns. We continue to grow “organically” – through our cash flow.
To create a sustainable pool of software developers we do not stop with creating a physical location in Kigali that meets modern work environment standards for the young professionals of our domestic entity. To offer a broad service portfolio as well as to have excellent talent market access, we teamed up with Rwandan tech startups Awesomity Lab & Octan Group at first – forming mutually beneficial partnerships. We got to know the team of Awesomity Lab when supporting them during their contract initiation and negotiation with Volkswagen Group South Africa – resulting in the development of the first application (“Move”) for the Rwandan integrated mobility concept, launched in 2018. Similar to Octan Group the young software developers from Awesomity have been mainly focusing on developing tech solutions addressing domestic challenges in diverse industries such as Education, Health or Business Management. Their focus is not only to enable the local society to actively take part in the digitization by the products and services they develop.
For us, it was key that both our Rwandan partners have a special passion for training and upskilling young tech enthusiasts, giving back to the local tech community and elevating it – this 100% matches to Code of Africa’s goal to foster the East African ecosystem by developing the sector and contributing to overall economic growth and job creation.
In our partnership we jointly strive to build a valuable Developer-as-a-Service talent pool by utilizing respective contacts of our partners on-site and to find and attract the best potential developers to populate it. At the same time CoA will build an ecosystem that is not only attractive to IT-professionals but also contains the right incentives to retain them over time such as exciting projects from the European client market and knowledge transfer.
We base our collaboration on sharing the same values and will continue in training and mentorship of new recruits. This is resulting in a viable pool of skilled and talented IT professionals. Together with Awesomity Lab we ran a 3-months Bootcamp in early 2020, not only focusing on programming- but also soft skills-training such as intercultural communication and how to best work in a remote set up – with the result to bring 85% of the interns into fulltime contracts with domestic companies, both from inside and outside of our partner network.
A remote work approach enables talent to stay in East-Africa
We are a geographically diverse team that collaborates. We make our Developer-as-a-Service set-up beneficial for everyone by providing unparalleled freedom to work in a way that’s most productive for each party – and avoiding ‘talent drain’ at once. The world is moving closer together. What was natural for us since the beginning, got a huge push due to Covid-19: Virtual collaboration is finally the most normal thing in the world! Almost no CO2 footprint, effective time management and above all, supply meets demand: The large surplus demand for IT specialists in Europe encounters a qualified supply in East African countries. All in the same time zone and in the same (English) language.
With our genuinely positive-thinking attitude and a passion to learn and grow we continue to do great things together. We spark a great sense of camaraderie along the way – not just important for our internal team vibe, but even more when working with clients in a distributed team set-up.
Innovation and technology for social change
With Code of Africa’s vision for social change through innovation and technology, we are aiming to create a win-win scenario for all parties involved:
1st Win – For the young coders and entrepreneurs who benefit from their new jobs and see the value in education.
2nd Win – For clients as they can reduce overall costs and get high quality work in return at competitive prices.
3rd Win – For the founders who continue enabling sustainable livelihoods in Africa while giving back to the society.
4th Win – For African nations by creating multi-national teams with Kenyan and Rwandan IT-talents working side by side.
This article is part of the Outsourcing Destination Guide Rwanda Editorial, which can be downloaded free of charge here: https://www.outsourcing-destinations.org/portfolio/outsourcing-destination-guide-rwanda/
About the author: Anja is a buying expert with more than 15 years management background in the Apparel Industry. During this time, she established successful international business partnerships and setup strategic supplier portfolios. Anja is used to create robust performing networks and negotiate complex partner agreements with a distinct cross-cultural sense due to her extensive experience with partners in Asia, Eastern Europe and Northern/Eastern Africa. She brings intuition and excellent feeling for consumer requirements & market trends.
After many years in the corporate world she decided to step out and setup her own boutique advisory firm – focusing on business enablement in emerging countries. During that time, she was lucky to discover the innovative and creative spirit in East Africa, especially when it comes to Software Development. The idea of Code of Africa was born!
Cover: copyright Code of Africa