WeThinkCode turns SA youth into tech leaders

Paula Gilbert
By Paula Gilbert, ITWeb telecoms editor.
Johannesburg, 15 Sept 2015
WeThinkCode plans to turn SA's youth into future tech leaders, starting with 100 students next year.
WeThinkCode plans to turn SA's youth into future tech leaders, starting with 100 students next year.

Tech incubator WeThinkCode has partnered with Africa 2.0 and Ecole 42 in France to launch a peer-to-peer tech institution in Johannesburg next year.

The aim is to train world-class software engineers and turn SA's youth into the tech leaders of tomorrow. WeThinkCode wants to transform technology education in South Africa to bridge the gap between undeveloped talent and a desperate IT skills shortage.

"Our education model is technology-enabled and therefore extremely scalable. We will be training 100 students in our first cohort in 2016 and aim to train 1 000 students per year by 2018. Our mission is to source and develop 100 000 coders in Africa," according to WeThinkCode co-founder Arlene Mulder.

Fellow co-founder Yossi Hasson says there are 3.5 million unemployed youth in South Africa, and WeThinkCode believes that within this pool, there is immense talent and aptitude to become world-class developers. "All we need to do is give them the opportunity to become so.

"South Africa (and Africa) needs skilled developers to solve Africa's problems. Talented developers sitting in Silicon Valley or Manhattan don't have the context of our problems so they're not solving them. Their problems are building a better filtering app for your photos, or sending messages to each other that disappear. Our problems are different, and in order to solve them, we need world-class developers inspired to do just that," according to Hasson.

WeThinkCode says the rapid evolution of the digital era has had a profound impact on business and society in Africa, but the IT skills shortage continues to hamper economic growth and social transformation in the country.

"The real revolution lies in our selection criteria that enable us to tap into the pool of underserved youth to source Africa's next generation of coding talent," says co-founder Camille Agon.

The programme is free and open to all "talented and resilient candidates" aged 17 to 35, regardless of previous education, socio-economic background or financial means. Student applications open on 1 October.


WeThinkCode is also launching #BornToCode, which challenges the top tech leaders in South Africa to fight it out to prove their tech muscle. The inaugural #BornToCode event will take place on 29 September, and will give tech leaders the chance to join the conversation and put money behind their coding talent.

"The country's foremost tech champions will be challenged to take the student aptitude test game and compete for the top 10 positions of the #BornToCode tech leader board," says WeThinkCode.

Tech leaders are required to donate a minimum of R25 600, which covers a stipend to help students through their studies. All funds raised will go toward opening the WeThinkCode campus in January next year.

WeThinkCode says more than 20 tech leaders have already signed up, including Thabang Legae, CIO of Wesbank; Derek Wilcocks CEO of Dimension Data; Robbie Brozin, founder of Nando's; Marc Ashton, MD of Moneyweb; Peter Alkema, CIO of FNB Business; and Stafford Masie, founder of thumbzup.

Co-founder Justinus Adriaanse says South Africa needs to become more competitive on a macro-economic level, and to do that, we need to increase our base of knowledge workers, and not only rely on manual labour.

"Manual labour alone cannot solve our unemployment crisis. The growth of many IT-related businesses are constrained by the lack of IT skills. By lifting these constraints, it will inevitably lead to more economic growth.

"We are either building a country that works for all its citizens, or we will stumble towards a country that works for none of its citizens," concludes Adriaanse.