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 An academy’s dream for picking up the IT game

The IT industry in Ethiopia is weak, to say the least. However, there are marginal increases in demand from businesses and organizations looking to transition to modern systems of operation, trade and communication. Unfortunately, IT professionals in the country often do not have the specialized skills need to provide comprehensive solutions. The lack of a skilled workforce in the industry, according to the professionals themselves, is that the pay is too low, as companies hesitate to invest in what they feel is work they cannot rely on. In comes Gebeya IT Academy, an organization looking to address both professionals and clients. As the name has it – Gebeya, an Amharic translating to marketplace – the key aim is to build the capacity of IT professionals through training and link them to clients in Ethiopia and beyond. Capital’s Tesfaye Getnet spoke to Hiruy Amanuel, Cofounder of Gebeya IT Academy, about his new organization and its goals for IT in Ethiopia. Excerpts:

Capital: What is the drive to open Gebeya IT Academy?

Hiruy Amanuel: In countries all across Africa, the tech industry is expanding rapidly and the demand for qualified tech professionals is growing faster than ever before. Gebeya wants to help fulfill this demand – we allow any African business or employer to be matched with a highly trained, certified and experienced IT professional at an affordable price.

Capital: Could you briefly explain what the courses at Gebeya IT Academy involve?

Hiruy Amanuel: Trainees will take practical courses with hands on technical modules, in web and mobile application engineering, Dev Ops, UX and UI Design and more. To supplement the technical skills they will gain, Gebeya will offer supplementary training such as Professional English (written and spoken) and communications. The combination of these skills will equip trainees to advance their careers even further.

Capital: Who is eligible to take these courses?

Hiruy Amanuel: The first 6-month training session is only available in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. So trainees must be located in or be a resident of Ethiopia in order to qualify for this first session. Each applicant is required to have some previous programming experience. This program is not an entry level programming class. The assumption is that our applicants will already have a basic foundation in programming and be comfortable with at least one programming language. Preferred applicants should have a computer science or information systems degree with a strong background in programming. Professionals, freelancers and consultants who have been developing applications and implementing systems for at least 2 years are welcome to apply. In future sessions, Gebeya will be providing entry level courses in programming.

Capital: You have planned to train over 5000 students in the next five years, is it possible to achieve this?

Hiruy Amanuel: Yes, it is definitely possible. For the first year we are planning to graduate up to 500 students, only because we are limited by space. However, in the next 18 months we are planning to have a bigger facility that can accommodate up to 1000 students per year. We are also going to add more courses to diversify the program and scale the model into other African countries. Initially, the curriculum offered to students includes IT Business Analysis, IT Project Management, Digital Marketing,IT Quality Assurance and software testing courses. These fields of study are extremely important and conducive to creating a strong Software and IT professional in general. This will consequently improve the quality of the IT industry in Africa.

Capital: What is the outlook for the Ethiopian job market in this field? 

Hiruy Amanuel: At the moment, the software and application development demand in Ethiopia is not significant. Ethiopian businesses and institutions are not yet conditioned to use IT and technology to improve their processes. For businesses who are interested in technology, the cost is often either prohibitive or they don’t have reliable resources to implement such services at the capacity in which they seek. Therefore, Gebeya will construct and supply that demand by promoting a new breed of talent that provides on-demand affordable services to businesses.

That being said, the demand for software and application development talent is high outside of Ethiopia in African countries such as Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria. It is substantially higher around the world. Gebeya’ s marketing team will be based in Kenya, as it has one of the highest demands for software developers in Africa and is home to the African headquarters of many Fortune 500 companies. This provides opportunities to accelerate customer acquisition and because the distribution channel is an online marketplace, we will be able to match and connect our Ethiopian Gebeya graduates with clients across Africa and the world.

Capital: What job opportunities are available to students completing these courses?

Hirui-Amanuel, Cofounder of Gebya IT Academy
Hiruy-Amanuel, Cofounder of Gebeya IT Academy

Hiruy Amanuel: There are three options available upon graduation. First, graduates will have the option to re-enter the workforce with the assistance of; anonline marketplace that matches highly skilled, certified and multi-lingual IT professionals with customers to develop innovative technology solutions, improving development efficiency, scalability and mobile success. Clients will be sourced from across Africa initially. Then we will gradually introduce Gebeya professionals to the rest of the world.

The second option is that graduates will re-enter the job market with brand new skills and an increased productivity level that will reduce IT operational costs and staffing needs in the field. Subsequently they will be able to assess and solve technology hardware and software needs efficiently for clients.

And third, Gebeya training is a combination of professional and entrepreneurship acumen. If they are sponsored by their employers, they will return to their companies with sharpened skills and new troubleshooting methods to maximize IT output. Equipped with these new skills, some of the graduates may choose to create their own startup companies as well.

Gebeya’ s marketing team will be based in kenya, as it has one  of the highest  demands for  software developers in  africa  and is home to the african headquarters of many fortune  500 companies

Capital: Many students majoring in IT complain about how little they are paid. Do you agree with this?

Hiruy Amanuel: We absolutely agree. There are several reasons why that is the case. The demand in Ethiopia is not high due to network issues and improper implementation of software solutions. The local IT professionals do not have the skills to justify adequate pay due to the inconsistency and quality of work. This makes business owners hesitant to pay for services that they cannot rely on. These factors coupled with erratic network connectivity makes IT solutions a luxury and not a necessity in Ethiopia.

Capital: How can they ensure they will earn a good income in this field?

Hiruy Amanuel: There are huge marginal gaps in website and software development costs when comparing overseas markets to African markets. For example, a developer in the U.S. would get paid an average of $30.00 (650birr) an hour to build a basic HTML website. In Africa, the same developmental services would run around $10.00 (217birr) an hour due to the inconsistency in web developmental services and the lack of training. By improving the standard of education and training of these IT professionals, we will raise the quality of product they are creating, thus increasing the pay rate substantially.

Capital: Anything you would like to add?

Hiruy Amanuel: Our goal at Gebeya is to bridge the financial gap in IT Web Solution Services of African developers by providing better curriculum and more quality control implementation with respect to the complimenting services they provide.