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School For African Tech Geniuses Pays Students To Learn

Andela is an African coding school startup that has essentially flipped higher education on its head, paying Africa’s best and brightest tech students to learn, then finding jobs for them — mostly at U.S. companies.

Large companies like Microsoft could do in-house training but the process is time-consuming and drains the more skilled workers, hence the opportunity for Andela, HowWeMadeItInAfrica reports.

You start to appreciate the disruptive nature of Andela when you visit its website, where it describes itself as “a mission with a business.”

U.S. education technology entrepreneur Jeremy Johnson co-founded Andela with Nigerian Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Ian Carnevale and Christina Sass, USNews reported.

Johnson made the Forbes’ 30 under 30 list in 2014, and Aboyeji was chosen as one of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers in 2012, according to CNN.

The Lagos, Nigeria-based company recruits people from around Africa to train as software developers for four months, followed by a four-year commitment to work remotely with a technology company that partners with Andela.

Andela is looking for logical reasoning and problem-solving skills from from potential recruits, according to HowWeMadeItInAfrica.

The software developers receive continual professional development and training. Most of the companies Andela partners with – such as Microsoft, 2U (the company Johnson co-founded in 2008) and Udacity – are based in the U.S., according to USNews.

Johnson said he was inspired to focus on training Africans after visiting Nairobi a year and a half ago​ to speak to investors and partners about the state of online education.

“I just became kind of blown away by the incredible underutilized human capital that I saw everywhere,” Johnson told USNews.

Up to 90 percent of young people — including college graduates — are unemployed or underemployed in some parts of Africa, he said. “(That) means even the brightest young people just don’t have paths into the formal economy.”

It’s hard enough to find software developers, Johnson said in an interview with HowWeMadeItInAfrica. Finding good ones is the real challenge.

“There are 1.8 million open technology jobs in the U.S. alone,” Johnson said. “We won’t put a dent in the gap even when we are successful. Finding not just developers, but genius-level developers is challenging to say the least. The skills gap is alive and well.”

You have a better chance of getting into Harvard, Stanford, Princeton or Yale than you do to Andela, which has an acceptance rate of less than 1 percent. By comparison, the most selective universities in the U.S. have acceptance rates between 5  percent and 8 percent.

Andela plans over the next 10 years to train 100,000 world-class software developers. It has already trained more than 100 in Nigeria and is recruiting in Lagos, Nairobi and New York, with expansion being considered in other parts of Africa, including Kenya, Ghana or South Africa, according to HowWeMadeItInAfrica and USNews.

Here’s how it works: Andela invests about $10,000 US in training and salary per student for six months. Students get at least 1,000 hours of training then start working as web developers while still training. Besides coding, they also learn communication and ethical leadership skills.

The idea behind Andela is a crazy one, Johnson admits. Paying people to learn instead of charging tuition for skills that are in demand around the world, like software development, “is a totally crazy idea,” he told HowWeMadeItInAfrica.

But it’s paying off.

Andela has raised $10 million-plus from more than 10 investors, including Steve Case (co-founder of AOL); U.S.-based fund Spark Capital; Omidyar Network, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, and Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks.

Although some Andela fellows leave Africa when hired by international companies, most will continue to work from Africa taking advantage of overlapping time zones.

Johnson describes some of the Andela students as “some of the most driven, passionate people I have ever met – they would run circles around many of my college friends,” he told HowWeMadeItInAfrica. “They are also thoughtful, humble people who understand their potential impact, and care about being part of this broader mission.”

Once they have completed the program, fellows should have many options, he said. They could start their own businesses, work with Fortune 500 companies or with local start-ups in Africa.

“The reality is they are going to have a lot of options because they are going to be part of this network of the smartest, most driven, tech-savvy young people across the continent – supporting each other through a robust alumni network,” Johnson said.

Source: AFK Insider

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