AI to resuscitate hiring of SA software developers

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 26 Feb 2024
Demand for developer talent in SA is forecast to skyrocket again in the near future.
Demand for developer talent in SA is forecast to skyrocket again in the near future.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is shaking up SA’s software development sector, taking efficiency to new levels and boosting productivity for developers.

This is according to the 2024 South Africa Report: State of the Software Developer Nation, compiled by OfferZen, the developer hiring marketplace.

The report, now in its fifth year, provides an in-depth analysis of the trends and challenges facing software developers and companies hiring software developers in SA.

The study is based on a survey of over 5 000 local software developers and the company’s own research.

According to the report, while some experts are predicting the burst of the “AI bubble”, South African software developers are still focusing on its potential, with the majority of surveyed software developers ranking AI as their most preferred industry.

The percentage of developers who see it as the most promising industry has grown from 50% in last year’s report, to 68% this year. With even more advances in AI tools over the past 12 months, developers are betting on a bright future for AI, it says.

AI-based functions − including automatic code generation, debugging, intelligent software testing, software design and improved data security − will enhance the quality of developers’ tasks and speed up processes – not replace their roles, notes the study.

“While AI adoption in SA was still pretty low last year, now over half of the software developers have worked with an AI application programming interface. The majority are also working with code-writing assistants in either their role or personal projects,” says OfferZen co-founder Philip Joubert.

“AI isn't just shaking up software development, it's also changing the way developers' technical skills are assessed. The use of online coding challenges by companies for assessing developers has fallen by 21.6% in the past year, since developers can now use AI tools to pass them.”

Over the last year, SA saw the release of ChatGPT-4 and open source AI models like Mistral make strides, reaching parity with GPT-3.5.

There are now AI integrations in virtually every app, from Microsoft Copilot, Miro and Photoshop, to Notion, notes OfferZen.

Crypto’s downward spiral

While things are looking up for AI, crypto-currency’s fall as a preferred industry for developers continues, notes the report.

The crypto industry grew in importance and popularity each year from 2019 to 2022. However, 2023 was the start of the crypto winter: the value of Bitcoin crashed and X removed its support for non-fungible tokens, while multiple crypto exchanges went bust or were sued by the US government.

This downward trend looks set to continue in 2024, notes OfferZen.

Now, only one in eight developers see the crypto industry as a promising industry. While Bitcoin’s price has started recovering, if that trend continues, there could be a renewed interest in the industry, it says.

While hiring among SA’s software developers dropped by 5% over the last 12 months, AI is expected to reinvigorate job placements in the industry, according to the report.

“AI makes it much easier and faster to write code. As a result, it will become much cheaper to solve problems with software and we’ll see demand for developer talent skyrocket. Companies are going to be rushing to integrate AI into all their systems,” concludes Joubert.