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Zimbabwe’s new shortage: Will the real programmers please stand up?

Talent shortage is a big problem in tech, and if you ask anyone in Zimbabwe who’s cared to find the best man for any particular tech job, they quickly agree. Even here at Techzim, we’ve felt it. It’s sad that not enough has been done to fix the situation.

One area that seems to be affected acutely is software development. Call them coders, developers or programmers; we don’t have enough of them. Some people might disagree because they swoon at the thought of our high literacy rate (it doesn’t mean much if you ask me) and all these tertiary institutions churning out degreed folk, but sadly the majority of these graduates don’t end up as programmers.

Now, I know this is going to come off as one of those usual rants that you’ve come across on every tech blog, where giants in technology like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are quoted, trying to convince the world that we need more algorithmic thinkers.

Ok, I’ll be honest, part of the narrative is like that. We don’t have enough developers, we need a frighteningly larger number as we wade deeper and deeper into a digital and intelligent world, and not enough is being done about it. But that’s only the start of it.

In a world where tech is underpinning any major movement and companies, both large and small, as well as governments slowly warming up to what we can do with the right control over technology, programming is one skill that should be advocated for more than what is going on.

This is not just a Silicon Valley or developed world problem. In Africa and yes, in Zimbabwe, some companies with a strong bias towards tech and the internet need developers to translate thought into a product.

About a week ago, Jason Njoku, the founder of iROKO, a very visible Nigerian startup, made news for posting an offer of 1 million Naira (US$5,023) every month to a talented coder that takes part and wins in a coding test. This is accompanying a job offer made for developers thanks to iROKO’s focus on Product, Design and Engineering.

Locally, I’m not going to cough up names of startups that are offering money to talented coders, but from what I’ve seen in the past couple of years in local startups tech, there is always room for great developers. The same dearth exists in larger companies that are always calling for developers (front-end and backend).

Instead of ruminating on how this skill is siphoned by brain drain, or pushing the government through the ministry of education to start making programming a priority, the best solution will have to come from people like you and me.

It’s not going to be necessary to open your own programmer’s academy (though that would be awesome). All it takes is each person who can, committing to teach programming or skills related to it (just as examples, think of problem-solving, basic algebra, algorithms) to someone who doesn’t have the skill.

When Hour of Code Zimbabwe started, some of us got excited at the prospect of some movement in line with this, starting locally. Now that we have the team behind it putting effort into doing what you might not have time to do, perhaps, you can encourage a couple of people who don’t know how code to check out the next meetup.

Sure, this won’t give us an army of programmers overnight, but it sounds like a great place to start.

If you have a solution to this talent shortage it would be great if you shared it.

Image Credit: WiseGeek


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67 thoughts on “Zimbabwe’s new shortage: Will the real programmers please stand up?

  1. I’ve been hunting for developers with real skills here in Zim for many years (since 2004). Any time I’ve invested in training someone here they have run away to SA or elsewhere as soon as they’ve got the skills and qualifications. At the moment it’s more reliable for me to hire developers on a contract basis out of the US or India. So few young people here have the education, the skills or attention to detail required for good developers that I can hire for real world jobs…

    If there’s anyone out there who can prove me wrong I’d be very, very grateful!

    1. Agree 100% with article and you @Tim. I usually get them green as interns and mentor them for two to three months. Since they are on attachment you then have at least another 8 or 7 months with them before they go back for their final year. Now having problems with cloud, animators/video but unfortunately I can’t mentor on these since I am as green as the students).

      Course design could improve situation if they add quite a bit of practical programming (i.e. half the guys have no idea of connecting to database, using classes and MVC). This makes the whole mentoring part quite steep. Lecturers in programming topics should spend two to three years developing software before getting anywhere near a university.

    2. I have the guts to prove you wrong Tim ,l am a teenager who has just completed his ordinary level course and have a great passion to develop in the software industry of zim ,l am not going for A level since its time wasting for me.for more info contact me on my whatapp 0736811259

    3. sourcecodej52@gmail.com programming java is my hobby i began programming at the age of 16 and interned at ogilvyone im free to work on any java projects free of charge facebookpage magma magnil

    4. Give me a project with a better offer and i will prove you wrong… its not like we dont have developers but there are no jobs, no opportunities out there. Im a computer programmer by profession but still im working for nothing because i can struggle to buy my own pair of trousers. there’s nothing to motivate us.

  2. I dont waste my time coding for Zimbabwe. The technological environment on its on lacks the framework e.g. e-commerce enabling aspects. This just puts you off, and I end up just coding for other countries like South Africa.

    1. What exactly are you waiting for the technological environment to have first? why dont you create that environment from what you can. E.g, pay4app saw a gap and they created that e-commerce environment through their on-line payments platform. then paynow followed… its good to for greener pastures outside, but i think its better to also create something locally. Big-up to people like SAM for creating pay4app.

      1. Have you evaluated the Volumes that goes through those Payment platforms. Its not business worth. Better things have been done. Zvakafanana nekuBigga munhu agadzira mota yakanaka yewaya, when other people in other countries Engineering the real stuff

        1. I’ve read multiple start-up books and articles and what I can tell you is every great company today started with a very small user/customer base, you can easily miss great opportunities if you look at companies like Facebook, you’ll miss out on the next whatsapp or snapchat with that mentality.

  3. we need to create awareness campaigns to kids in junior school that programming exists as a profession..most people in zimbabwe discover that vakuenda ku university and then its most likely too late..it might late for us but lets invest in the future..

  4. I remember a great point LSM put across many years ago. He said Zim devs are capable. But there’s no economic incentive for them to burn hours learning all the bleeding edge tech when they won’t be able to use them in this market.
    Not everyone wants to or has to startup. So they take their skills abroad.
    That being said I think a hacker culture like many have proposed is one that needs to be nurtured. Where developers tinker on small solutions to real problems as proof of concepts or just for the fun, which for me has led to bigger opportunities.
    Our devs do go abroad (like Lukesoft above) once they realize their worth. Don’t know what will plug that.

    Met a developer who was having client trouble yesterday. He’d been AWOL trying to juggle multiple clients to make ends meet I suppose. If there was a way he could find other devs and link up, they could set up quite a shop. And he knows his stuff.

  5. Good developers are sought after everywhere!

    For the few that are available in Zim, you will have to pay through your teeth or remind yourself that this isnt some mule. Best thing you could do to lure them is to PAY THEM VERY WELL,…. AND…. GIVE THEM SHARE OPTIONS.

    Otherwise, contracting is definitely the next best alternative.

    Outside of that, you have to make do with what you pay for.

  6. the problem with Zim technology start with IT institutions. Private colleges specializes on stealing money. you dont learn anything meaningful there. Universities their curricular out of reality. things you learn there are outdated. you dont find them anywhere, anymore. so you will start learning other things after graduation. by then you be now having more responsibilities. so to experiment with other things, they will be no time for that

  7. BTW, the high literacy rate we have in Zimbabwe is with reference to reading and writing ability. NOT EXPERTISE(or literacy) in SOME field.

  8. I will agree with you on the difficulty in finding good devs. I once struggled to find a Java EE developer. Most of the guys I interviewed did not even know Java EE, even though they had brilliant CVs. It got me thinking, there are very few companies in Zimbabwe that are using the technologies we are using, so there would be few places where one would have learned these technologies in Zimbabwe. It’s not that these guys were dumb, sure if they receive on the job training they will improve. So instead of looking for devs, find someone to train. The notion of a high demand for devs, I don’t agree with. There isn’t a high demand out there. A high demand would be good as it would encourage people to teach themselves these technologies. Lastly, the rookies out there need to stop over selling themselves, they make they overshadow the good devs.

  9. Honestly speaking, saying there are no good developers or programmers in Zim is just lying to yourself and trying to justify your lack of putting much effort into finding them…Good/amazing developers are there its just that focus is mainly focused on Harare and Bulawayo but have you checked in the small rooms of the small towns?….Look harder you will find us…We are also looking for you..coz code doesnt pay but people do!

  10. Resources are a hindrance in Zim ( kunyanya Electricity, Internet). As a dev, access to the computer/magetsi/internet stack all day. Its different from ma doctor, who can read ma textbook pamushana.
    If you only have net ne mushini kubasa or ku varsity, its going to be very difficult (not impossible).

  11. There are a lot of good developers, you just don’t know how to attract (and retain them). Here’s a check-list
    * how good is your remuneration? Real programmers require real incomes, and the potential employers are worldwide
    * is the work interesting? Why would I be interested in building your boring CRUD application
    * are you looking for a developer or a code-monkey? Code-monkeys are expected to translate your overly detailed ‘design doc’ into language X line-for-line

    What’s fascinating is a few years back I couldn’t get a single programming job (granted, I wasn’t open to any jobs requiring MS tech in their stack for ideological reasons, but my point remains)

  12. I have developed enterprise solutions for a number of organisations and local organisations are not willing to pay the money it actually costs to develop software in this country. Yet they would rather pay more to foreign firms. The attitude that local firms have when it come to honoring payments to local IT firms is really disheartening yet for foreign firms they pay on time. This has contributed to low remunerations in the country for IT firms.

    1. I concur. Local companies/clients want your product for next to nothing. They just don’t value the programming effort in coming up with a good product. As for the lack of quality programs i tend to disagree. I interact with guys who are very talented, programmers conversant know the basics and concepts and who write awesome code. Most times there are just very little or no incentive offered in this space.

  13. In Zimbabwe there are incentives, that’s why we flock down south and elsewhere. Here you get someone asking you to develop an app for $150, that’s nonsense. Mari haziko,until then.

    1. I agree. I am a php developer and have seen that locally no one is willing to pay for the amount of time you put into a project. At times we have solutions even for the Govt departments, etc that will help curb corruption and loss of revenue, but such skills are seen as an unnecessary expense. Some solutions that are being brought about by the Chinese contractors are inferior and have many loopholes. So we’d rather make more “sensible” money from our US and European clients.

  14. I am not based in Zimbabwe but I think its not that we do not have good developers in the country. We may actually be having very good developers or potential developers but I think the ecosystem in the country is a bit thin. What we need is incentive, good mentorship and access to technology. We should share more and exchange more. I see a lot of opportunity in Zimbabwe for each and every developer. The established developers should start being entrepreneurial and make money while inspiring others within the country to do the same and increase their interest in the trade

    A year ago I looked for someone with WordPress expertise to take over a plugin that I wrote and sold on Codecanyon (I made $40K) on it in 2 yr. Even though it was a side project I think a developer in Zim can live comfortably on it. I have folded it because I no longer have the time but the offer still stands.

    So opportunity is there and developers have to be inspired to create wealth and jobs; that is why I have also decided to build my company Rentalgrid Global in Zimbabwe before we expand out. We have secured a desk at Hypercube and we have 1 investor in Zimbabwe and 1 employee so far. We are currently in beta but doing demos to potential clients. You can checkout the beta app here http://app.rentalgrid.com. So definitely I would like to take some developers under my wing and mentor them especially those still in college.

    So in a nutshell, I am saying; developers dont make themselves, we have to make them, nurture them and builds them. Lets share our wisdom and experiences and opportunities.

    1. I’m interested in working with you and learning a thing or two. How can I get in contact with you? You can app me on +60147230811

    2. I am still in college doing Java EE l am intrested in being mentored by a proffessional someone.How do i get in contact with you my number is +263784481295

  15. “no good developers IN ZIMBABWE”… Sorry but you are young and your Zimbabwe is very small, probably your college circuit only

  16. Glad you brought this up, I would like to see this topic discussed further, lets get some stats going like
    1. Who are they
    2. Where are they
    3. What languages and technologies are they using
    4. Average pay
    5. Self taught vs Formal training
    6. Salaried or Freelance

  17. I think the India model provides a good example of a viable developer model. Programmers with large programming boutiques (i.e. 800 to 2000 developers) pay their programmers anything between 150 to 300 per month. Freelance entry level programmers will accept an small assignment for USD 20 for anthhing up to twenty hours. Programmers are cheap. In USA where there is thriving start-up scene, seed capital of USD 5 000 is welcome and founders will put themselves on as low as USD 250. So I think since the discussion here takes cognizance of global developments, the assertion that programmers should be paid gold should be viewed against what the best ecosystems out there are doing. Anyone who says its easy to find developers should give us the channel they used to locate and select them. You want one in india, you google them or go to freelancer.com .

    1. Good luck to anyone following this advice of a wholesale & numbers approach.

      Maybe if you’re building something small, with minimal scaling and integration, this may work for you. Maybe your typical CRUD, “MIS” application.

      Anything bigger, complex, requiring scale… this is a painful journey with hard lessons

      1. As I indicated, boutiques with 800 to 2000 pay 200/300. I have worked on three assignments some spanning more than two years with Indian software houses and these are the current prices. They don’t do small jobs. They do work for most of the large US institutions (i.e. Dell, Delloite, Microsoft, etc). You however need to put your outsourcing management systems in place and maybe that was what you were referring to when you were talking about painful journey. Some of the major pains are really people issues thus if you don’t have a structured Change Management works stream in large and complex systems then you are asking for trouble! There seems to be an aversion for CRUD systems. I have to see any mission crirical system that does not do CRUD. Even a kernel for any system has to create a task list, store status on disc to persist the environment so it can remember where the villain was when you resume you game tomorrow. As for MIS, some of the best CRMs have some really big scaling issues and they still glue to a ERP with critical financial and security requirements. So I sometimes feel that we should not take a shot at CRUD which is the entry point for serious programming. Try persisting an n-tier, multi-state MVC application across multi-ple machines (i.e. cloud) without firm understating of CRUD and you will get a nasty shock.

        1. Was that rant an excuse to drop technical terms/jargon? LOL. What kind of kernel persists process information to disk?!

          CRUD is boring, it’s the basic building block and if it’s all your app does, your app really doesn’t do much. It’s like employing a research mathematician and limiting them doing addition, subtraction, division and multiplication of integers only.

  18. Zimbabwe doesn’t have the economic level to support coding as a career except maybe for a few individuals. If it did i definitely would have quit my 8 to 5pm job. A friend tried to persevere but in the end he got a job in IT support cause the pay is regular. Zimbabwe has talented programmers. Unfortunately the skills have to fall by the wayside as we have to face movement of time and have to take up financial responsibilities.

  19. my programming skills improved immensely when i started self tutoring and obtaining video tutorials online they are a massive leap from what we get in these so called colleges and whats good is that the learning is paced to your own liking if you seriously want to obtain world class skills i suggest this route!!

  20. Many people claim to be programmers or coders but only a handful have the required problem solving skills. The economic problems some of us are talking about are part and parcel of the information and constraints if not opportunities that are assimilated into meaningful software solutions. I would propose the set up of software regulation standards that are tailor made for Zimbabwe and the African context in general. Through the platform programmers will be able to review the work of others and as well get information about latest software developments in the country. Again I say, sophisticated problem solving skills are scarce. The good thing is that they can be nurtured trough proper training and talent identification as indicated by the author of the article. Thank you. If you may need any insights about this , contact me on 0772 830 594(Mobile) or 0737 122 065(Whats app) or 09-290 488(Land line)

    1. ” I would propose the set up of software regulation standards that are tailor made for Zimbabwe and the African context in general. ”

      Absolute waste of time, resources and is of very little benefit.

      It doesnt matter where you are in the world, the field of software engineering is agnostic of your geographic location. The principles are the same

  21. The issue is look in SA and many regions u will see great coders born bred and trained in Zimbabwe. The issue is that ICT professionals are not treated well in terms of reward so until companies etc can show me the color of their money I will not waste my knowledge!!!!!

  22. I find the nature of our educational system to be a devil in sheep’s clothing. I have bumped into a number of college graduates who have been thrust down a career path because some dean or university course adviser looked and said “well, you have 5 points, you cannot be a doctor, lawyer so lets put you in computer science.” They go in there and somehow survive the horrors of coding by copying assignments from each other and hiring some guy working in an internet cafe to do their final year project (freelancer!). They come and ask for internship and when you ask firstly what they did in school in general, you are like “good”, this person might be worth it. Then you start asking deep questions about theory and challenging questions about application including whiteboard examples in the meeting and you see sweat coming out from places i never conceived had sweat glands! You ask to see some of the work they have done even home projects and if you are lucky they have some project they worked on with someone else and you ask a question about why a certain part of the code is designed in a certain way. Not seeking to punch holes in a design but want to understand what you were thinking and then you just realize, they probably were the person following the group. Some guy who had an idea and was trying hard and has probably scooted abroad is the one i should be asking this question.

    I then push back and ask, what are you doing in the field of software and computer science? We are not allowing people to chase their passions and its a grievance i hold with UZ for instance. I do not deny that some academics are required but you cannot thrust down upon a man or woman that you think they should be a lawyer when you don’t even know what they are passionate about. Academics just proves you read something and passed something. Passion proves you have gone the extra mile by yourself to become good at something.

    Its the reason i facilitate coding sessions at the hour of code. I started off as a self taught coder because I could not afford college. Worked hard till i could afford to pay for a diploma. Got a job (which i honestly thought i did not deserve) and worked my butt off till i became good at what i love doing. Now I am doing my masters and loving software everyday. Was it easy, no its a story over 10 years. Do the math. But I do believe if the situation must change, people like me have to come out of the closet and pass down what we know, motivate and mentor.

  23. The problem lies in our education system (edusystem). When we were at college in the 90s we were really programming in that we were assessed for our programming skills in class. Now its all most 20 years after college but undergraduates are coming to me for programming services which they eventually submit as their own handcraft work. Which correspondingly means that these graduates are in is incompetent when it to comes to programming in its real sense. At college I did qbasic, cobol, dbaseiv, pascal, C, C+ and visual basic. The programming foundation I did in these languages has made me now learn VB.NET, C#, C++ and right now am working on java and android programming platforms in my own. This is what I call programming skills lateral transfer (PSLT). It is very easy if you are laden with skills.

  24. There plenty of developers in Zim me included,but the truth of the matter is we dont support home grown solutions from an IT policy level.Look at the move Russia and China took on the future of android by goin for Sailfish OS.there are are folking it into a local OS thus promoting the local industry in the long run.Our policy makers are short sighted which cascade to everyone.Most IT companies and Gvt included prefer to buy solution from india,china and SA .Imagine if we aim to cut our national IT spending to promote local software development effort the IT dev industry will grow.But as long as we don’t think long term we will just miss the talent ,alot of developer have been relegated to be sys admin and net admin just clicking next next all day.

    1. Zimbabwe’s new shortage: Will the real programming companies please stand up? Show me the great programming companies in Zimbabwe and I will show you the great programmers.

  25. Zimbabwe’s new shortage: Will the real programming companies please stand up? Show me the great programming companies in Zimbabwe and I will show you the great programmers.

    1. hahahaha I like that comment… programmers please add a like button 😀
      Honestly, our economy is just disheartening.

  26. If anyone is looking for a good programmer and willing good money please contact me. Anything you want, only your money and imagination is the limit.

    +263735807688 Call Me.

  27. what do you expect in an environment that only looks at a college degree? if you want people with degrees you will get them en mass. but if you want programmers change your hiring attitude. there are plenty talented programmers out there who are never given the slightest chance just because they dont hold a BSc in Computer Science. If you have gone through college you will know that there are many who earn their degrees on the back of others. And there are talented individuals who did not go to college for reasons beyond their control. Look for talent, not papers and you will see what I mean

  28. i like your challenge. you are the only one to openly invite anyone who thinks they have what it takes to prove you wrong. I code, but i dont believe myself to be talented, my talents are somewhere else and i would love it if a guru in that field extends a similar invitation. i just hope you are not like the rest who ask for degrees before engaging (not that education isnt important, just that i feel talent should be put first)

  29. I’m a developer and I’m Zimbabwean self taught there in Zimbabwe, but I just couldn’t stay for the small peanuts Zim clients have to offer, guess what m in SA and I work for the top mobile development company I get paid very well , my heart is in Zim I want to develop something locally it’s my country but then again I have a pocket that needs filled every month end!.

  30. Dnt think there is a shortage of developers bt the problem is with the people hiring themselves if you are not giving a good enough offer you get what you pay for no disrespect. Econet pay their developer like 2000 bucs u never here them complaining abt lack of developer talent

  31. What an interesting topic people need and others can provide but no one is there to link the two,how about a local web for workers in zimbabwe

  32. Its always difficult to get good talent, it all depends on you recruitment policy. Many developers brilliants papers and can talk themselves out of an interview. If you are looking for a coder surely you cannot hire a person just because they say they can code you have to take them through a rigorous process to test their skills. Because there is high unemployment anyone with a laptop think they can code because there is nothing else to do.

  33. I`m recruiting developers with the following skills for January 2017 . This is for building a startup.
    Skills required:
    PHP
    HTML
    CSS
    MYSQL
    AJAX
    JAVASCRIPT
    ABILITY TO DESIGN COMPLEX ALGORITHMS
    Anyone interested to join me change the world with this powerful idea i have in mind please send me your cv :tendaimoyo12@gmail.com specifying your age and skills set .Deadline is Friday 30/12/16 for submissions.

  34. Sup. What do I gotta do to make myself known out there. I mean, I like I what I do, and I feel like I have to do it as soon as possible. One thing, Im still an A’Level Student.

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