Exclusive: Andela Aims To Build 100,000 Tech Leaders In Africa


Less than a decade ago, Africa was known for importing technocrats and skill leaders to develop local infrastructure or solve its peculiar problems.

However, this stereotype is fading off.

A surge in the entreprenuership quest of young minds coupled with an unprecedented access to Internet and digital media channels are fast making experts, programmers and skilled digital media ambassadors out of Africans. Moreover, the scale and pace of these needed knowledge is still slow relative to the need talents to solve local problems and build companies out of them.

Andela, a digital media training campus did come into the scene to build the needed hands to make Africa stand tall among other countries. The company runs a campuses for some of the most talented youths in tech across Lagos and Nairobi, Kenya.

In this exclusive interview with Seni Sulyman, Country Manager at Andela, he unveiled, the company’s roadmap and the company’s undiluted vision and unique proposition to build tech leaders for Africa.

Tell us briefly about the Genesis of Andela?

Andela was built on the premise that while brilliance is evenly distributed, opportunity is not. Andela is the product of a multinational team coming together to achieve the goal of building the next generation of technology leaders in Africa.

What is Andela’s vision for Africa?

Our vision is to influence 100,000 African developers who we hope will become a core part of creating the future of technology both in Africa and globally, via the private and public sectors.

“our priority is expanding the program to build a large number of technology leaders who will go on to join and launch the next wave of high-impact companies in Nigeria and across Africa.”

How is Andela looking forward to scaling up operations? e.g by expanding the training campus outside Lagos or taking in more trainees?

Andela is looking to continue building out our 4-year technical leadership programs, through expanding the Lagos and Nairobi campuses, and opening campuses elsewhere on the continent. In realizing that a key part of our success at reaching these large numbers depends on quality partnerships and broad initiatives, we have created the OpenAndela initiative, which seeks to extend our curriculum and reach far beyond our campuses.

Is Andela looking towards diversifying into building actual products that belongs to the company?

Andela is already currently using several products internally that were built by teams within Andela. One such product is a skills and performance assessment tool that applies innovative practices from learning sciences to enable us adequately evaluate when learning happens and when capabilities improve. We hope to continue building out such innovative products to meet the needs of our organization as we continue to grow.

What is your biggest challenge on this project?

Two of our largest challenges in Nigeria are finding the right real estate to grow into as we expand, and the economic volatility in Nigeria (particularly around currency, inflation, etc). We hope to continue tapping into our partner networks to better understand and address these challenges.

How do you plan to work with smaller entrepreneurs who can’t afford what you charge the likes of Facebook and IBM?

Andela currently works with several small startups, and our developers are delivering immeasurable value for each of our company partners. We have also engaged in several opportunities to work with other smaller organizations through mentorship, panels, and participation in hackathons and other technical programs. We are currently evaluating how best to work with local companies and smaller entrepreneurs in a way that’s mutually beneficial, but ultimately our priority is expanding the program to build a large number of technology leaders who will go on to join and launch the next wave of high-impact companies in Nigeria and across Africa.

You just raised USD24 million from Mark Zuckerberg, how did you pull it off?

Andela is very focused on our mission to build the technology leaders of Africa. We have been fortunate to receive interest from some very prominent investors, and we continue to communicate the successes we are achieving both in building tech capacity, and in creating value for clients. We believe this is what makes us an attractive investment for technology investors who are mission-aligned with where we’re going.

Does Andela has a plan of listing on any African stock exchange?

For now, we are acutely focused on driving towards our vision.

What is your 5 to 10 plan for the company?

In 10 years, we aspire to have trained 100,000 developers in Africa and given them world-class experiences that make them into technology leaders who can become change makers on the continent.

About Seni Sulyman

Seni is passionate about building an ecosystem of exemplary African businesses and leaders.

Before joining Andela, Seni built and operated a business airline in Nigeria to achieve a stellar >90% on-time departure record. Prior to that, he worked on several strategic projects at the early stages of Nigerian eCommerce startup Konga.com. Seni’s experience also includes global strategy at Hewlett-Packard, principal investments at CardinalStone Partners, and management consulting at Bain & Company.

Outside of his career, Seni founded A Young Professional – Africa (AYPAfrica), a niche organization providing practical insights online and offline to help talented young Africans navigate the often obscure journey to self-actualization.

Seni holds a BSc degree in Electrical Engineering from Northwestern University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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