Can No-code Lead the African Tech Revolution?
What spurred the low-code/no-code technology was the chronic shortage of developer talent the tech industry was facing. Software was eating the world, and the number of graduates from computer science-related departments just couldn't keep up with the increase in demand. It all started with automating repetitive tasks and boilerplate code. Today, low-code/no-code technology can produce enterprise-grade internal tools, web apps, and SaaS tools on which whole businesses are built.
The global low-code market, enjoying a decades-long head start over the no-code technology, stood at $16.3 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $148.5 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.8 percent. The global no-code market, on the other hand, was valued at $12.13 billion in 2021 and is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 24.1 percent, reaching $68.03 billion in 2030.
Tech jobs migrating to developing countries
It is safe to assume that a large chunk of this growth will come from developing countries where no-code satisfies a vital need. India has become to software development what China ("the workshop of the world") was to manufacturing. As the demand for software drove up developer salaries in the West, companies and individuals worldwide started o to look for alternative sources of developer talent. Outsourcing work to Indian developers has become a common practice in this process, helping integrate the Indian workforce into the global job market.
Another region looking to take a larger share of the world economy in the twenty-first century is Africa, and it looks well-positioned to do so. The continent has a population of around 1.4 billion as of 2022. According to the UN, the population is expected to hit 2.5 billion by mid-century and 4 billion by the end of the twenty-first century. African countries lack the industrial infrastructure to employ the young and growing population or the capital to build up their industrial capacity. That's why they turn to foreign capital and know-how to diversify and add complexity to their economies so that they can accommodate this tide of youth about to join the workforce.
The dragon with an agenda
China looks to be benefiting the most from this African appetite for foreign direct investments. As part of its Belt and Road Initiative, the country lent money to African countries and invested heavily in ports, railway networks, and mining concessions, especially in the eastern part of the continent. However, there are serious claims that China is engaging in predatory lending practices: Lending money at high interest rates, demanding quick repayment, and deliberately targeting countries that will not be able to pay off the loans. Once the borrowers default on the loans, China can ask for geopolitical concessions and take over the infrastructure it built in those countries. This practice has become so common that people coined a word for it: The debt-trap diplomacy.
Countries wary of falling captive to Chinese lending schemes are looking for other ways to spur economic growth. Taking a page out of India's playbook seems to be a wise move for African countries. Copying the Indian model involves building a healthy startup ecosystem and promoting organic growth that can African ingenuity and creativity. African governments, too, have finally woken up to the bottom-up growth startups can engender.
The no-code way
No-code tools can play a special role in transforming Africa into the new tech frontier. There are two factors that make no-code a great match for the African startup ecosystem:
Technology: Starting with a blank canvas
Africa was regarded as a technological backwater for decades. However, the fact that Africa is an uncharted territory for conventional technologies might be a blessing in disguise. The continent achieved impressive levels of mobile phone coverage and penetration without having a landline network to speak of. The proportion of households having a landline in countries like Senegal, South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania never surpassed a few percentage points. The countries completely skipped the landline stage and leaped to the digital era.
The same is true for the internet infrastructure. Today, African service providers don't have to concern themselves with fixing or maintaining copper wire internet infrastructure, as there was very little of that to begin with. They can start with fiber optics right away.
Likewise, African startups can take advantage of a level playing field and turn their solutions into mainstream business models. African fintech companies show us how. While European fintech companies live solely on transaction fees and struggle to survive against traditional banks, African fintech companies are generating multiple revenue streams and creating a whole new industry on their own without having to worry about established players.
In such an environment, no-code can offer tremendous advantages to its practitioners. No-code technology makes it easier for entrepreneurs to test ideas and significantly reduces the time-to-market. This capability makes a huge difference in a "blue ocean" market like Africa, where the first mover can create a category, condition the customers, and reap the benefits for years to come.
Demographics: A match made in heaven
The population boom mentioned above translates into a new generation of African entrepreneurs. These people are digital natives. They are tech-savvy people determined to transcend local boundaries and engage with their peers in the rest of the world. This new breed of African entrepreneurs can use no-code tools to acquire a set of skills that they would otherwise have to acquire through traditional means like education.
No-code technology has the potential to become a big part of education in Africa. No-code education in Africa can turn millions of tech-savvy Africans into freelancers and introduce them to the global job market. Western tech companies would love such a development as they are faced with increased developer salaries and are always looking to cut costs. With the help of no-code tools, Africa can become another market Western companies can outsource services from. Africa's journey to becoming a software development hub like India can start with the no-code movement.
Aware of the potential no-code has for African people, tech education platforms are including no-code education in their portfolios. For example, Kabakoo, a leading tech education platform in Africa, partnered with Contournement, the European leader in no-code education, to hold the first no-code training initiative in West Africa in 2021. It is safe to assume that the next generation of tech founders and freelancers in Africa will leverage no-code tools to realize their dreams.
Check DC, a design agency based in Lagos, Nigeria, successfully implemented a strategy based on no-code tools to put itself on the map. The company won web design contracts, used no-code web design platforms like Webflow to complete projects, and made a name for itself. In the time it takes for the African education system to train the developer talent the continent needs, no-code can help companies like Check DC to plug skills gaps and generate significant levels of revenue.
Africa taking its rightful place in the forefront of technology is not a matter of if but when. With the insatiable demand for developer talent in the West and African youth entering the workforce, the stars are finally aligning for the continent. No-code technology will be a significant part of the puzzle here, helping bridge the gap between the Africa of today and the Africa of the future.