In a bid to bridge the digital skills gap in Africa and prepare the next generation of young Africans to play actively in the burgeoning digital economy, a Lagos-based startup, Zuri Team has leveraged a unique training model that has seen it empowering over 120,000 people in different aspects of software development over the past 24 months.
Co-founded in 2020 by Seyi Onifade, a Nigerian entrepreneur and software developer, Zuri Team offers highly subsidised technical training in software development and design by collaborating with companies and non-profits.
Over the past two years, it has collaborated with organisations such as Ingressive for Good, founded by Maya Horgan, Sean Burrowes, and Blessing Abeng and Yele Bademosi’s Nestcoin to train participants on web2 and web3 technologies by offering highly subsidized technical training to individuals who would otherwise not be able to afford such training.
“Our goal is to give everyone a chance at a better life. We do this by collaborating with organisations, NGOs and individuals whose interests align with ours. These organisations sponsor participants to take part in the training. We train in both web2 and web3 spaces.
“This year alone, we have trained 60,739 people across 100+ countries. Most of our participants are from Africa. However, we have had participants from other parts of the world,” Onifade said, explaining the unique model that has seen the startup record tremendous impact over the past two years.
A few other things separate Zuri Team from the pack. First is the participation requirements. The startup does not conduct any entrance exams. Everyone who applies for Zuri Team training gets in.
“We allow everyone to try tech out and let them decide if it’s for them or not,” said Onifade who started out in the digital skills training circle as the chief executive of HNG Internship in 2019 and grew the program by over 100%, when Hotels.ng founder, Mark Essien who founded it stepped down from the role.
The training allows a degree of flexibility that is also uncommon with other training programmes, such as allowing participants to come back for another round of training. According to Onifade, many return to engage in another track (or course) in training to continue to improve to the level that prepares them for the job market.
Zuri Team training is also one of the few programmes that are 100% remote, removing the need for participants to go to a specific location. Participants can access their content, class, assignment, and tutors from anywhere, including on their mobile devices.
Beyond the training also comes the Zuri internships. While the beginner training focuses on beginners who are new to tech or who wish to get better in the industry, the internship prepares participants for actual tech jobs.
Those who complete the internship are paired with Zuri Team partner organisations for employment, added to the talent pool and exposed to mentorships, opportunities, and other industry programmes, which help them to continuously improve their skills.
For Onifade, the vision is simple: “To remove the barriers that many young Africans experience while acquiring life-changing technical skills that enable them to play actively and profitably in the digital economy”.
He said, “Most of our participants face financial constraints that make it impossible for them to pay for standardised software development training that provides access to the global curriculum. So, we believe that with a training programme with little to no barrier to participation, subsidised and location-agnostic, we can play a pivotal role in democratising access to digital skills in Africa and help its young people kick-start careers in the technology industry.”