James Governor's Monkchips

Projecting Africa: software growth, ecosystems and the future arriving

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logo of Open Source Community Africa, in orange
Last month GitHub Universe featured Samson Goddy, a powerhouse evangelist on the African tech scene. Director of Community Relations at Sourcegraph, he’s also the founder of Open Source Community Africa, a community of open source contributors, maintainers and advocates.

“My focus is on getting more projects out of Africa that the rest of the world depends on.”
– Samson Goddy

This is such a brilliant, clearly-defined, audacious goal… and yet it’s also simply a matter of time before there are many more such projects. Pia Mancini, co-founder of Open Collective, a funding platform for sustainable open source projects, has a fantastic profile of Goddy here.

Another zinger of a quote from the man:

Changing the perception of Africans from just billion users to the Next Billion Creators.

From this vantage point we’re going to see a lot more projects like Chakra UI. Segun Adebayo is the founder of the project, he’s a Nigerian but lives in Dubai. Chakra UI, an open source component library instantiating a design system for building React applications, is getting a fair bit of attention at the moment. Last month Adebayo spoke at both Vercel’s Next.js Conf, and GitHub Satellite. Chakra is well on its way to becoming an ecosystem in its own right. GitHub stars is a very blunt instrument for understanding community interest, but 22,400 is impressive.

RedMonk has long argued that Africa will rise as a software powerhouse. Both anecdote and data point that way. Nigeria gets a fair bit of attention, given its population of more than 200m, bias to education, and many rising stars in the software industry.

But Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, and South Africa are all interesting, with mature software industries and tech education systems. I am sure there is interesting stuff going on across the continent.

GitHub offers a wealth of data into these trends. According to its recent State of the Octoverse report

Open source has kept growing in Africa this year—in fact, 40% of all open source repositories created there happened in the last 12 months! A higher percentage than any other continent.

Open source, online learning, cloud services and hustle are really the charm, driving adoption of newer technologies and approaches. While universities are still teaching older programming languages such as C++ and Java, self taught developers are emerging with Javascript – which is of course the lingua franca of the modern web – and cloud skills. Advocacy, online teaching and learning and sharing are baked into the culture, which is creating a flywheel. See folks like Nenne Adaoro Nwodo, author of Cloud Engineering for Beginners and Ada Nkuka Oyom aka Kolokodess, devrel ecosystems manager at Google, and founder of @DevRelLite “a platform dedicated to helping newbies get started in Developer Relations” and She Code Africa.

According to Quartz Africa

But Africa’s developer talent is younger than those in more advanced economies and the overall numbers on the continent are growing faster. Just a third of them receive their training through universities, instead more than half are either self-taught or pay for online school programs, speaking to the desire and broad ambition to acquire skills for future employment and entrepreneurship in countries with few existing formal jobs, but also a shortage of digital skills.

The tech leviathans have woken up to the opportunity, and are now investing accordingly. They want to take advantage of flourishing ecosystems. Google Summer of Code has been particularly influential. Goddy himself was a mentee and then a mentor through the program.

But from my perspective the most interesting phenomenon here will not be what US companies bring to the table (and of course, take liberally from it), but what local businesses and developers do. What Goddy said – creating African projects that a global audience relies on. That’s what I am looking forward to seeing.

I asked Goddy to name a couple of projects he found interesting, but he diplomatically suggested that actually, I should share sets of GitHub links to African projects. His point was that all these projects, just like any, are looking for contributors. Please take a look.

Made in Nigeria, a GitHub repository that’s “a curation of awesome tools and projects built by Nigerian developers.

Made in Africa “Developers in Africa use open source technology to solve some of the world’s most intractable problems and grow their business ecosystems. Here’s a snapshot of local projects across the continent.”

A few bonus links

Two African tech companies on Time’s 2021 100 Influential Companies list:
Flutterwave: fintech unicorn out of Nigeria, helped African retailers make a transition to enabling digital storefronts in the pandemic
Gro Intelligence: agriculture analytics platform out of Kenya, helping provide better insight into the global agriculture ecosystem (and is founded by Sara Menker, a woman who grew up in Ethiopia’s famine in the 1980’s, which is such a powerful origin story. Helping companies and governments navigate interconnected global food markets, understand global impacts of climate change and disrupting hunger is just the best reason to found a company.)

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