The 2012 Information Economy Report [PDF] prepared by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) revealed that Africa ws directly involved in only about 3% of the US$1.3 trillion in global IT revenue. For context, Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most-populous continent —with 1.2 billion people, accounting for 15% of the global population.
Mentioned in the report was Coders4Africa (C4A), the largest network of African software developers and software outsourcing companies. C4A took on the challenge to get more Africans involved in the global IT economy by helping to produce African software developers who could shape a true African IT industry. C4A helped train hundreds of coders in Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, and Ethiopia.
However, to meet demand, C4A needed to train many more devs and coders, using the network to find job opportunities for them.
In April 2016, Amadou Daffe, the CEO and co-founder of C4A and a native of Senegal, travelled to Silicon Valley to find investors interested in scaling C4A into an aggressive, Pan-African startup. Only Hiruy Amanuel, a young investor and self-made entrepreneur of Ethiopian origin, stood out.
Both Amadou and Hiruy's families have a history of fighting for Africa. Hiruy’s grandfather, Kenyasmach Yikunoamlak Desta, fought against the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. On the other hand, Amadou’s father, Mamadou Daffe, dedicated his career to creating sustainable agricultural engineering systems throughout West Africa through his company, IDEV-ic. With these roots, it was clear from the beginning that both men shared a burning passion for the same idea: that it is time for Africa to take control of its own destiny.
“We were brainstorming on how we could contribute to Africa’s destiny — Hiruy as an investor and I as a technologist", Amadou says. "Hiruy mentioned that he had always wanted to build a school in Ethiopia. Being from Silicon Valley, it took me literally five minutes to sell him on why a software engineering academy coupled with a platform that would match graduates with clients would be extremely valuable in Ethiopia and duplicable across other African countries."
The concept was named “Gebeya”, which means “marketplace” in Amharic. Gebeya was conceived as brainchild of C4A in Ethiopia, with offices in Kenya and the USA.
"We are launching the IT Academy Training program in Ethiopia, which has a population of nearly 100 million, three-quarters of which are youth", Hiruy says. "Our strategy is to make Ethiopia the headquarters for the IT Academy Training hub and graduate approximately 5,000 students in the next five years. The training will begin in mid-September 2016. We will begin accepting applications from candidates in July 2016, and will offer partial and full scholarships to selected individuals."
The Gebeya marketing team will be based in Kenya, where the startup is hoping to tap into the demand for software developers. Nairobi is home to the African headquarters of many Fortune 500 companies, and this provides Gebeya with opportunities to accelerate customer acquisition. Because distribution channel is an online marketplace, they hope to use the city as a launching pad to reach IT professionals throughout the continent.
Gebeya's purpose is to develop African IT talent while providing an online IT services marketplace for the African and global business market. It also seeks to expand IT skills, eliminate tech hardware and software needs for its clients, increase opportunities for African IT professionals, and reduce IT developmental and operational costs so more Africans can utilize these services.
Amadou and Hiruy are optimistic about their chances. "Africa may have missed the Industrial Revolution", they say, "but its youth have no intention
of missing the digital one!"
Cover Image: Gebeya founders Amadou Daffe (L) and Hiruy Amanuel (R)