When Tolulope Komolafe first heard the pitch, she was skeptical. A fledgling company in Lagos, Nigeria, would pay her to learn how to write modern computer code and then offer her a good job in the high-tech economy.
“I thought it was a con,” she recalled. “Too good to be true.”
After inquiring, Komolafe found the offer was real. Today, she is a software developer, working remotely from Lagos for a start-up in New York, and she dreams of starting her own tech company someday.
Komolafe, a 27-year-old Nigerian, is one of hundreds of young Africans who have joined Andela, a fast-growing start-up based in New York
that has attracted the attention and money of people like Facebook
founder Mark Zuckerberg
and works with blue-chip companies like Mastercard.
The company’s ambitious agenda spans education, economic development and moneymaking. It is betting on its ability to build out a talent pipeline of African software developers
to the United States and elsewhere, tapping into a continent eager to connect to the global digital economy.
Jeremy Johnson, Andela’s chief executive, says the company offers “a very different model for unlocking human potential.”
The animating idea behind Andela, founded in 2014, is that Africa
has plenty of smart people, but that they too often lack the preparation for and pathways to gainful jobs — the missing ingredients that Andela
can provide in the field of software development.
Not only does Andela
instruct people in person, but 20,000 aspiring programmers across Africa
have used its free online learning and training tools. By 2024, Andela
hopes to have helped prepare 100,000 software developers
for jobs, including thousands working for Andela.
After six months of paid training, the Andela
employees become remote members of software development teams at companies. The current roster of 112 customers includes Viacom, Mastercard
in the United States, and clients in 10 other countries.