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Skills development critical to Africa’s software sub-sector, says Cheng

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 Audrey Cheng

Audrey Cheng

Audrey Cheng is the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Moringa School in Nairobi Kenya, where high potential, pro-active students learn to code from a world-class curriculum with top quality instructors, tutors and mentors to support them in the process. Moringa School is a 16-week bootcamp where aspiring programmers are taught and trained to become world-class developers. They acquire knowledge in HTML/CSS Front End from week 1 to 3, Python/Django Back end from week 4 to 7, Android from week 8 to11 and the students have the project week, week 12 to 16.Cheng, 22, is accelerating high-potential individuals across Africa to become world-class software engineers. In 2016, she was selected as one of the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs. She graduated from North-Western University with a journalism and global health degree. Cheng, who was named as one of the top five African female innovators at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Rwanda, sat down with DOLAPO AINA for an interview. Excerpts…

Why were you at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2016; which held in Rwanda?
My name is Audrey Cheng. I am the co-founder and CEO of Moringa School and Moringa De shop. We are a software development shop that does work for clients all over the world. Essentially, what we are doing is up-scaling high potential African youth into becoming world-class developers.

What is coding and a coding school?
Coding is essentially software development programming. We are upscaling youth in skills like; user experience design and also a lot of professional developments. We are creating not just world-class developers but truly holistic leaders

What is the relevance of coding and for those unaware, how does it help anyone?
Coding is the foundation to what a lot of people talk about when it comes to Information Communications Technology. Look at the applications being built; the tech companies like Jumia; they all have a tonne of developers that build their services or products for them. If you look here in Rwanda, the government is doing a huge ICT push to digitise everything. In order to digitise things; you have to learn how to code.

From your experience on the continent, do we have enough Africans going into coding?
Right now, the issue is there are a lot of interests. But even for our programmes, our acceptance rate is very low. There is a lot of interest but I don’t think there are a lot of areas to high quality education.

Why do you think so?
I have visited universities across Kenya and while they are very good at teaching theory. What they are not so good at; is at teaching practical skills. When it comes to skills nowadays, if you dont have the practical skills, you can’t get a job and you can’t essentially build a product or service that you can sell if you are an entrepreneur.

What do you do in Nairobi and why are you based in Kenya?
I am an American and I arrived in Kenya because I was working for Savannah Fund (a venture capital fund investing in early stage technology start-ups across Africa. And we have done investments in Nigeria.) The biggest problem I noticed whilst working with Savannah Fund; helping them with their second accelerator with three start-ups in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. One of the biggest problems I found working with these start ups was their lack of access to high quality developers. I would ask them “what can I help with?” And they would say, I need help looking for developers.

That was what made me begin to look into this problem. If there is so much excitement around technology in Africa, where are the skills, where are people who can actually build the products that can scale and solve challenges?
From your observation, the challenge we have on the African Continent has to do with skills and that there is the interest but no skills to venture into coding?
The major problem is lack of access to quality education that would give people the skills they need. Because I think the talents are here on the African Continent (and everyone is super smart) but it is the appropriate education that they need.

What is Moringa School about?
Moringa School is divided into two parts. We have junior Moringa School, which is a two-week part time programme. And this programme aims to introduce students across Kenya into tech programming due to lowering the barrier entry into tech, which is fairly high right now. Then, we have Moringa School, which is our full time four-month programme. It is very intense and it trains in web development and US Web development. In this programme, we are transforming people from the level that they come in, to world-class developers.

Why is Moringa School only based in Kenya?
Moringa School is based in Kenya, but we are definitely looking for ways to expand. We have attracted students from Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi. We are getting a lot of interests from the Continent right now and we are looking at where should we set up next?

For those who are curious, is Moringa School an elite school?
Moringa School is open to high potential people. People who are strong at maths, logic, skills, common sense and who have a great personality. We test this through our admission procedures. We don’t look at how much people can pay because our model is that people take out loans in order to pay for our tuition fees. When they graduate and get jobs, they can pay back very easily. The school’s website is www.moringaschool.com and www.moringadevshop.com (that s our tech consultancy, where we do tech consultancy for clients globally.)

What is the next move and innovative idea from Audrey Cheng and Moringa School?
We are looking at up scaling; with what country should we be in; what other scale should we be teaching that are in high demand.


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