The idea of Andela started in Lagos, but has evolved into a global brand with presence in Nigeria and Kenya. It is a global Engineering company, supplying African Developers to international companies. In 2016, Andela raised $24 million from the Chan/Zuckerberg initiative, set up by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, to train African Engineers. I was with Seni Sulyman, Country Director, Andela recently and we had a very interesting discussion on the impact of empowering African Software Developers.
Seni Sulyman, stated that Andela is really focused on finding some of the best talents in Nigeria, convert them into amazing Software Developers and model them to go ahead and build the future of Nigeria. He also stated that, it looks for and finds companies in the world that have a lot of problems they are trying to solve, using technology and cannot find people to solve it for them around them. Andela, then, brings these companies in contact with these trained Software Developers to solve their problems for them. “We have an application system online, so, right now, every Month, we focus on running an application cycle”, he stressed, when asked on the mode of getting these young men and women, who are trained in Software Development.
Seni, however stated that, some of these enthusiastic young young men and women find Andela by themselves. He stated that the application system online is rigorous and challenging, to the extent that, people who applied, but did not eventually get into the Andela prgram, always said they have learned a lot from the application process alone. “So, we do a personality test and we also do, essentially, a psycho-metric test, where people are being asked to solve problems, solve challenges, so ee see how quickly they can learn and a big part of the application is that, we give you a study kit, you take it away with you, you spend a few Months working on it and then, you take a test”, he emphasised.
He stated that the entire application process takes about a Month or a Month and a half to complete, but it could take up to six Months, depending on your experience on Software Development, prior to your applying to Andela. Seni stated that there is no age limit or barrier for anyone that wants to apply to Andela. “We truly belief that anyone can do this. It takes certain personality traits, such as persistence, perseverance and a huge desire to actually learn in corporate feedback”, he stated.
“So far, over 60,000 people have applied to Andela”, he stated, stressing that in Lagos alone, there are about 200 trained Developers and each of them have one or two people they have mentored or mentoring. “Each individual that gets into Andela to work already has a network of people that they have built that is getting value from them”, he opined.
Seni stated that he is ot worried that a lot of younger students are not going for STEM courses currently, which is thought might pose a problem of feeding the tech pipe need in future. “The main ingredient are not necessarily a degree. The main ingredients for us, are, again, people that can think critically, people that can solve problems, people that can go through challenging circumstances and succeed and overcome”, he emphasised. He stated that there are people who never had a degree as well as people that never studied any STEM courses at Andela. He, however, stated that he is worried for Nigeria. “I think that, at a higher level, you do need a large population that has studied STEM because, actually, they can go ahead and build other sectors that are related”, he posited. Seni is of the view that, with the right leadership that has a focus of adding value and having the thought of making the next generation better than the last, the issue of getting more young students to embrace STEM courses will ultimately be solved.
On the notion that that Andela is taking our best minds out of the stores of Nigeria, Seni stated that, “if you want to be the best at anything, find the people in the world that are the best at that thing and go and learn from them”, he noted. He also stated that apprenticeship is the oldest way of learning and that is exactly what Andela is doing. The Andela idea, he emphasised, is to get these Nigerian guys to study and work along side the best tech guys in the word and eventually have some of them come back to Nigeria to start their own companies.
Seni stated that he is excited with progress made, so far, in the Nigerian Startups ecosystem. On a final note, Seni went on to advice young Startups to come into the space with the right reasons, which is adding value and not look for short cuts.
You can view the full interview here and here.