Africa Roundup: Andela adds Uganda, CcHub Nigeria taps talent and investment abroad

The developer training and recruitment service Andela announced its expansion into Uganda. The company―which recruits African software developers and places them at global companies―completed its first recruitment cycle in Kampala.

The Uganda opening adds to offices in Nairobi, Lagos, New York, and San Francisco. It also marks year three of Andela’s rise as a VC backed, revenue focused firm that is often misread as a charity.

Chief executive Jeremy Johnson described the organization as “a mission driven for-profit company”―a model for the concept “that you can actually build businesses that create real impact.”

Andela connects the opportunity to train and employ developers from frontier African markets to a projected future gap between computer science jobs and qualified graduates to fill them.

The company touts it selection process as “extreme recruiting”, adding that it takes “1 percent of tech talent from the largest pool of untapped talent in the world” for its  6 month training program. In its first Uganda recruitment cycle the accelerator accepted 8 of 800 applicants.

“We are bringing in a class every single month, and a new cohort is…rolling on to partner companies every month.” Andela places programmers at over 80 companies in 25 cities around the world, according to Johnson.

Andela raised $39 million in venture funding from investors including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Spark Capital, and GV. Andela currently earns revenues from corporate partners who pay to utilize developers. “Those companies think of it a bit like AWS for talent,” he said, referring to Amazon Web Services.

Nigeria’s Co-Creation Hub (CcHub) made two moves in May to tap talent and investment abroad. The Lagos based innovation space launched its Diaspora Challenge in London: a program that will offer up to $250,000 and 9 months of mentorship to startup ventures run by Africans living in the UK, US and Europe.

The program is open to businesses in three categories―education, fintech, and energy―with a criterion that their startups “solve a clear problem…that affects a large number of people in Africa.”

Discussing the Diaspora Challenge with TechCrunch, CcHub CEO Bosun Tijani referenced Africa’s brain drain, “We have loads and loads of people outside the continent, in the US and Europe, who are doing really well,” he said. He sees sourcing outside talent as a necessity for  Africa’s tech ecosystem. “If we don’t find ways to excite the smartest of the smartest…we won’t be able to build businesses that complete globally or solve problems on the continent.”

Tijani referenced the emergence of tech entrepreneurs in the diaspora―such as Konga’s Sim Shagaya or iRoko’s Jason Njoku―who have founded African startups influenced by work and study abroad. “There’s something that comes from having the global perspective that helps make your business more rounded,” he said.

Parallel to the Diaspora challenge, CcHub announced its European PitchDrive tour in partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs. Starting in August, Tijani will bring a group of 15 CcHub selected Pan-African tech companies to pitch to investors at events in London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Zurich. The goal is to raise around $20 million in investment over the three week tour period. This adds to CcHub’s existing impact investing fund, that has invested in 9 startups and produced 6 exits.

Tijani named an emerging funding gap in Africa’s tech ecosystem as a PitchDrive motivator. “Tech in Africa has picked up really strongly in the last 5 years, but the challenge is we’ve primarily been able to build early funding sources, then a few sources interested in matured startups,” he said.

“If you are raising anywhere between $50K to $250-$500K…you can find people to invest at that level…then above $2 million it’s easier to raise,” he said, referring to a handful of VCs investing in later stage African startups. “Unfortunately, anything between $500K and $2 million is difficult. A lot of good businesses are struggling to find funding, so we thought, ‘let’s expose them to the world,’” Tijani said.

U.S. tech investors could get their chance to grill CcHub selected startups sometime soon. “If Europe becomes successful, perhaps the next PitchDrive will be five American cities,” said Tijani.


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