Developers in Africa

We run a tech startup in Lagos, as an adopted-African developer (or at the very least — a developer living in Africa), I was curious to know what technologies/stacks our peers use, and just find out a bit more about the ecosystem / community.

Luckily, every year Stack overflow does a survey of developers on exactly those kinds of questions, so I spent a flight from Lagos to Boston parsing through Stack Overflow’s 2017 developer’s survey, to see if I could pick out anything special in trends on the continent, vs the rest of the world, and if there were any major differences across the content.

I’ve summarized some interesting comparisons in graphs below. Of course, you can get the raw data here, or the raw raw data here.

If you think this is interesting

If there’s anything else you’ve wanted to know that’s not captured in the Stack Overflow survey, I’m crowdsourcing suggestions for continent specific questions to put into a new survey, which I’m hoping to send out to as many devs as can be reached, and the results of which I would obviously post publicly. If you’d like to suggest questions you’d like answers to, check out the link below

Where are all the developers?

There were 881 respondents (not the largest number, I admit), with the following country breakdown

Not surprisingly, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya top the list. There also seems to be a huge Anglophone bias, which isn’t ideal, but does make sense.

Somehow, I assumed Nigeria would have the highest number of respondents, because I assumed Nigeria had the largest population of developers (because I assumed that Nigeria had the largest population in general). Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe there’s a selection bias. I’ll add this to the to-check-out list.

What are the most popular programming languages?

So, not much surprise or difference here. Javascript dominates across the continent, as it does across the world. The only noticeable differences would be that PhP seems to be more popular in Nigeria and Kenya (taking 2nd place in both countries) whereas in South Africa, the #2 “proper” programming language is C#.

What frameworks are all the cool kids using?

Again, not a lot of difference here, but in South Africa, there seems to be a larger number of people developing for Microsoft (C#, .Net etc..)

P.S: In case you were wondering: We use Node and Angular, making us solidly typical for Nigeria, the continent and the world.

How did you learn to code?

Gender breakdown?

To be fair to Kenya, there is a small sample size, so if an 1 extra programmer had responded yes, then Kenya’s % would be 1 higher. Still, the results are statistically significant, and even moreso for South Africa, which is not far off from the global average of 7.6%.

Relatively good job South Africa, though we all need to do a bit more work on that front (as challenging as that might be).

How’s the pay ?

Interestingly enough, one of the statistics that varies the most across countries is the % of developers who reported feeling underpaid.

Hold your horses — some of this difference can be explained by small sample sizes — only 7 of 95 survey takers in Kenya even put in an answer to the question, and a sample size of 7 is not a big sample size.

Some of it cannot though — especially in South Africa, there are enough responses to make the results statistically significant. That is, the average South African developer feels more underpaid than the average Nigerian developer.

Why is that? I have no idea, but it might be an issue of cost of living, but I have never been to South Africa in my life, so I’m just guessing.

For comparison, check out average software developer salaries across the continent.

First and foremost- these numbers are not from the survey, but rather from this Quartz article, and Payscale. I fully concede that this may be comparing apples and oranges, and I’ve heard that the average engineering salary in Nigeria is quite a bit lower, and also that there are very different guesses estimates for software salaries in Nigeria.

Is it cost of living? Well, Lagos is probably cheaper than Capetown, and also seems to be cheaper than Nairobi (which I can attest to), though these comparisons all depend on what you mean by cost of living (Banana Island and Makoko are 2 parts of Lagos that are very close together geographically, and very far apart in terms of cost of living).

But if broadly speaking, Lagos is cheaper than Nairobi, why aren’t more Kenyan developers complaining about being underpaid?

How should I know?

Well, if you do have an idea, I’d love to hear it — either in the comments, or you can message me direct —

Don’t forget

I hope you found this interesting! If there’s anything else you’ve wanted to know that’s not captured in the Stack Overflow survey, I’m crowdsourcing suggestions for continent specific questions to put into a new survey.


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