DevCircle Africa is a pan-African organization that aims to equip African youth with digital skills and promote technology innovation across the continent. Founded in 2019, DevCircle Africa runs various technology programs and initiatives, including coding bootcamps, hackathons, meetups, and conferences.

One of their flagship initiatives is the Open Source Program, which was launched in 2023. This program focuses on providing free access to open source education for aspiring developers in Africa. By leveraging open source tools and technologies, the goal is to make quality coding education more accessible and affordable on the continent.

The Need for Open Source in Africa

Africa has lagged behind other regions in access to proprietary software and developer tools. Proprietary licenses can be prohibitively expensive for individuals, startups, and even governments in Africa. This severely limits the ability for technology and innovation to grow.

Open source provides a free alternative, putting world-class software and tools into the hands of African developers. Rather than being locked into proprietary ecosystems, open source gives flexibility to use, modify, and share software freely.

Lack of access to proprietary software and tools has stunted technology across major sectors like education, healthcare, agriculture and governance in Africa. Open source opens up opportunities by removing the barriers of high licensing costs. This enables African innovation to flourish across critical domains.

Initiatives like DevCircle Africa’s Open Source Program aim to transform the landscape. By teaching open source skills, they empower the next generation of African developers to build solutions to local challenges. This traps talent and capital that previously drained away to proprietary vendors back into the local ecosystem.

The open source model aligns with values of openness, collaboration and community. This makes it a good fit for addressing Africa’s needs. The continent can leapfrog by adopting open source rather than following the proprietary model. DevCircle Africa’s program aims to make this possible.

Goals of the Open Source Program

One of the central goals of DevCircle Africa’s Open Source Program is to promote open source culture and tools across Africa. As a continent, Africa has often relied heavily on proprietary software from large multi-national tech companies. This can be expensive, limit customizability, and make it difficult for Africans to fully control and contribute to the software they use.

DevCircle wants to change this status quo by empowering software developers across Africa with open source alternatives. Open source code is free for anyone to use, modify, and share. This allows local developers to fully customize software to meet their specific needs and contexts. It also enables a collaborative culture where devs can build on each other’s code, rather than reinventing the wheel.

Some key ways DevCircle is promoting open source through this program include:

  • Offering training courses focused on popular open source programming languages like Python, Ruby, and JavaScript. This teaches both coding skills and the open source philosophy.
  • Encouraging participating coders to contribute to active open source projects on platforms like GitHub. This allows them to gain experience with open source collaboration.
  • Developing their own open source software projects tailored for African needs. These projects can then be shared across the continent.
  • Hosting local meetups and hackathons for the open source community to grow and thrive.
  • Spreading awareness through conferences, blog posts, and podcasts about the benefits of open source in Africa.

By achieving these goals, DevCircle aims to plant the seeds for a vibrant open source culture that can drive innovation across Africa for years to come. The localized expertise and pride in homegrown solutions is key.

Curriculum and Course Offerings

The curriculum at DevCircle Africa focuses on teaching skills relevant to the current African tech landscape. The program offers courses in several programming languages and frameworks:

  • Python – A general purpose language that is widely used for AI, web development, data analysis, and more. DevCircle teaches Python fundamentals along with skills like web scraping and building machine learning models.
  • JavaScript – The core language for web development. Students learn modern JavaScript, Node.js for server-side programming, and frameworks like React and Angular for front-end web development.
  • Java – An object-oriented language used widely in enterprise software and Android app development. The Java course covers OOP concepts, data structures, databases, and GUI design.
  • PHP – A back-end language popular for building dynamic websites and web apps. The PHP course focuses on integration with databases like MySQL and frameworks like Laravel.
  • Android – Students build real-world Android apps in Java or Kotlin, learning skills like mobile design principles, location services, and offline data storage.
  • HTML, CSS – These basic building blocks of webpages are taught in conjunction with JavaScript frameworks like React. Students learn modern techniques like responsive design, CSS Grid, and animations.

The curriculum evolves constantly to incorporate the latest languages and frameworks, ensuring students graduate with skills relevant to employers. Soft skills like version control with Git, agile methodology, and debugging are woven throughout all courses. With its comprehensive and cutting-edge curriculum, DevCircle prepares students for success in the African tech industry.

Partnerships

DevCircle Africa has partnered with several leading open source foundations and organizations to develop and grow the Open Source Program. Key partnerships include:

  • The Linux Foundation – DevCircle is a member of the Linux Foundation and leverages their training materials and network to provide Linux and open source software courses. Students can get certified as LFCS and LFCE.
  • Free Software Foundation Africa – Works with DevCircle to promote software freedom and provide training on free software tools. They co-organized developer meetups and hackathons across Africa.
  • Mozilla Foundation – Provided mentorship and curriculum support focused on web literacy programs. Students learn skills like HTML, CSS, JavaScript through Mozilla’s learning platforms.
  • Women in Open Source Community Africa – Partnership to increase women’s participation in tech through open source training programs. WOCA mentors female students and supports events.
  • OpenMRS – Health IT non-profit that assisted DevCircle in building open source healthcare solutions. Students get hands-on experience customizing and implementing OpenMRS.
  • OpenRGB – Open source lighting platform that collaborated to create an OpenRGB driver development course to get more contributions from Africa.
  • Raspberry Pi Foundation – Provided discounted Raspberry Pi boards to DevCircle students for hands-on learning. Also shared educational materials.

By partnering with these established open source organizations, DevCircle has been able to accelerate the growth and impact of its Open Source Program across Africa. The partnerships provide critical resources, expertise, mentorship and global connections.

Challenges and Critiques

While DevCircle Africa’s Open Source Program has seen success, it has not been without challenges and critiques. Some have questioned the sustainability of the program, as it relies heavily on volunteers and donations. There are concerns that funding and resources could dry up over time, threatening the program’s ability to operate.

Additionally, some have argued that the curriculum is outdated and does not provide students with the most modern and in-demand open source technologies and skills. The curriculum has remained fairly static since the program’s inception, while the tech landscape evolves rapidly. Critics argue that students would be better served learning newer open source languages, frameworks, and tools that are highly sought after by employers.

There are also critiques about the program’s selectivity and limited size, as it is only able to accept a small percentage of applicants. Some believe it should expand to provide access to more students across Africa if it wants to have a broader impact. However, limited resources and funding are barriers to increased enrollment.

While not perfect, the Open Source Program offers African students invaluable opportunities to gain technology skills and improve future prospects. Addressing concerns about curriculum, selectivity, and long-term sustainability can help the program have an even greater positive influence across the continent. But it has already made an undeniable impact for numerous graduates.

The Future of the Program

As the Open Source Program looks ahead, they have ambitious plans for growth and new initiatives. DevCircle Africa aims to continue expanding the program across the continent, bringing open source education to even more students in new regions and countries.

Some key goals outlined for the program’s future include:

  • Developing additional open source courses and content beyond software development, including topics like data science, cybersecurity, and design. This will provide students a wider range of skills to meet Africa’s tech talent needs.
  • Growing the mentorship network to provide more 1-on-1 guidance and real world perspectives. Bringing on more mentors will ensure students get personalized support during and after completing the program.
  • Launching networking events and hiring fairs to better connect graduates to job opportunities at tech companies across Africa. This will improve graduate hiring outcomes and employer partnerships.
  • Exploring virtual/remote learning options to increase accessibility and reach students in remote areas. Online courses could allow many more students to benefit from the program.
  • Partnering with more universities across Africa to offer open source courses for course credits. This will increase visibility of the program and provide pathways for students to earn degrees.
  • Securing additional funding and sponsors to expand capacity for teaching staff, facilities, equipment and student scholarships. This will enable broader delivery of the program across the continent.

As DevCircle Africa continues pursuing its mission to empower African youth with digital skills, the Open Source Program aims to play an integral role in developing talent and leaders for technology innovation across the region. The program’s continued growth and evolution will help drive positive change in African tech ecosystems for years to come.

Impact on African Tech Ecosystem

The introduction of the Open Source Program by Andela has had a tremendous impact on the African tech ecosystem. By providing free training in open source technologies to talented African developers, the program has significantly increased open source contributions from the continent.

Before the program launched in 2017, Africa accounted for less than 1% of open source contributions worldwide. The lack of training opportunities and exposure to open source projects meant few African developers were actively participating.

The free 6-month intensive training curriculum focuses on skills like Linux, Git, HTML/CSS, Ruby on Rails, and Javascript. Participants learn through building real-world projects and contributing to active open source repositories. This hands-on approach gives them the confidence and experience to become active contributors.

Since launching, the program has trained over 500 developers from across Africa. These developers have contributed to major open source projects like Kubernetes, React, Angular, Django, Ruby on Rails, and more. An analysis by Github found 7,000 open source contributions from African users within months of the first cohorts graduating.

By removing barriers like access to training and network opportunities, the program has empowered a new generation of African developers. They are now building solutions for local challenges, and participating in the global open source community. This increase in contributions has helped highlight the amazing talent emerging from Africa.

The program has nurtured a culture of open source participation across the continent. Initiatives like local meetups, code sprints and documentation projects are bringing developers together. The African open source community is thriving thanks to the program’s focus on skills training and enablement. With more talented developers emerging, the African tech ecosystem is poised for rapid growth and innovation.

Conclusion

The Open Source Program introduced by DevCircle Africa in 2018 is an important initiative aimed at promoting open source software development across Africa. Through partnerships with major tech companies like Google and IBM, DevCircle has been able to provide free training, tools and resources to aspiring developers across the continent.

The program fills a crucial skills gap, enabling African developers to build expertise in cutting-edge technologies like cloud computing, artificial intelligence and blockchain. Thousands of students have already graduated from the program over the past few years. Many graduates have gone on to launch successful startups or find roles with top tech firms.

By empowering developers and promoting open source collaboration, the Open Source Program helps strengthen the broader African tech ecosystem. The skills and experience gained by participants allows them to build innovative solutions to local challenges. The program also enables sharing of knowledge across borders.

In summary, the Open Source Program by DevCircle Africa has been immensely beneficial in unlocking the potential of African developers. It has helped democratize access to new technologies and created new opportunities. The program demonstrates the transformative impact of open source collaboration. Its success highlights the abundance of talent across the continent. The Open Source Program represents an important step towards establishing Africa as a major tech hub globally.

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