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InfoQ Homepage News The Future of Agile in Africa: Challenges and Progress

The Future of Agile in Africa: Challenges and Progress

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The African continent is trailing behind in the adoption of agile compared to other continents as it faces wicked challenges and setbacks. According to Aanu Gopald however, the next two decades seem to be promising to the young continent, as tech startups, SMEs and large corporations are recognizing that a collaborative approach to product development leads to more productive and value-driven results.

Aanu Gopald, an enterprise agile coach, spoke about agility in Africa at the Agile Consortium Belgium 2021 conference.

Gopald mentioned that the African continent is still trailing behind, not just in adopting, but also in embracing the agile mindset compared to other continents in the world. She stated:

There is no better illustration of this than the fact that respondents from Africa accounted for just 2% of those polled for the 14th Annual state of Agile reports.

While this number is not a great picture on the grand scale, we cannot ignore the fact that Agile is ever so steadily creeping into the African corporate and software development spaces.

Recent years have seen more and more organizations—such as Sterling bank, MTN, Access Bank, Flying Doctors Nigeria and Interswitch—adopting agile ways of working and bringing in expert agile consultants to lead their transformation. Standard Bank, South Africa’s largest bank, has made a complete metamorphosis from traditional business models to the scaled agile framework.

Tech startups, SMEs and large corporations are recognizing that a collaborative approach to product development leads to more productive and value-driven results, Gopald said. She mentioned some examples:

The rise of tech hubs and startups has been explosive, numbering over 600 in Africa, with promises of further increase. In Nigeria alone, tech startups like Flutterwave, PiggyVest, Kuda, and Paystack—to mention a few— have dominated the FinTech space using digital innovation, reeling in millions of dollars in seed funding. In the e-health sector, 54Gene and mPharma have broken ground and are expanding across the continent. These hubs play crucial roles in community, business incubation and ideation and their growth continues to fuel innovation within Africa and the international community.

With corporations ensuring their staff are receiving Agile training, and more educational programs being set up to involve enterprising individuals in the awareness and adoption of Agile mindset and methods, I believe the future of Agility is a likely-looking one, Gopald concluded.

InfoQ interviewed Aanu Gopald about the adoption of agile in Africa.

InfoQ: What are the main challenges that Africa is facing?

Aanu Gopald: Africa is the world’s second largest and second most populous continent, but remains the poorest and least-developed in the world. Although the continent has made some progress in a number of fields, it is still faced with a great number of wicked challenges and setbacks compared to its counterparts. Notable among these challenges are: poor employment structures and mismanagement of human resources, unstrategic decision-making and political instability, lack of access to essential amenities, and below par social and IT infrastructures.

It has become increasingly clear that for Africa to keep up with the rest of the world in this digital evolution, we must find ways to tackle these obstacles.

Several progressive thought leaders have examined these issues and come to the agreement that the solutions to Africa’s developmental issues can only be achieved by working from the grassroot up. In the wake of this realization, programs and institutions—such as the Africa Agility, Agile 42, Leantor, Agile Advisor Africa, Think Agile, Zhill Systems and Professional Agile Global—dedicated to meticulously equipping future leaders are being set up to change our economic landscape for the better with innovative digital solutions. In recent times, there have been more conferences creating awareness, providing training and promoting the application of Agile across various sectors.

InfoQ: What is the situation in Africa regarding the adoption of agile?

Gopald: Statistics in IQ Business’ state of Agile Africa 2020 report indicate that the majority of the population applying Agile methods are making use of Scrum. Out of a sample of 260 respondents of the survey, 68% have attended training for Scrum, 41% in Kanban, and 30% in Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and product ownership. The focus is gradually shifting from the process-intensive and hierarchical traditional methods of handling projects to Agile’s collaborative, people-focused and accelerated product delivery approach, especially in the financial service sectors.

As in other parts of the world, the landscape in Africa is still filled with traditional business models and unprepared leadership communities for modern challenges. Other critical difficulties are traditional organization & political culture, lack of executives’ sponsorship and commitment, Agile skills gap, managerial apathy and organisational resistance to change. However, with consistent efforts, we can build a future centered around ingenious software development solutions from Africa.

InfoQ: You mentioned that there’s been a rise in African home-grown young innovators and startups. Where is this seen, and what will the impact be?

Gopald: Sub-Saharan Africa is home to the world’s youngest population, and one that is increasingly well-educated and teeming with innovative talent and entrepreneurial drive.

At the turn of the 21st century, Africa has become home to some of the fastest growing economies, birthing several self-made millionaires from Africa in Africa. One way the youth in Africa are solving some of the socio-economic problems such as unemployment is the boldness to move away from the unavailable white collar jobs and venture into entrepreneurship. They are defying the odds by developing new ways of making money and attracting investment in their respective countries.

South African fintech startup Basalt Technology (formerly known as Black Beard) is one of the startups in Africa that uses the agile approach for intuitive problem-solving. YUX, a research and design outfit located in Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, combines UX and Human Centered Design methods with agile development teams to build digital products and services.

The youth are Africa’s most valuable resource for economic transformation, and the welcome influx of fresh ideas is a promising step towards a sustainable economy.

InfoQ: What does the future of agility in Africa look like?

Gopald: The future of Agility in Africa is looking brighter than ever before, and the impact to the global economy will be explosive as Africa is now more important to the global economy than ever before, with an estimated 15%+ of the world’s energy resources and 60% of the world’s unused farmland.

There are still massive socio-economic problems in Africa to overcome. However, the continent is making remarkable progress, and if this pace is maintained/improved, the possibilities are endless.

The next two decades are filled with promises of digital transformation and innovation in Africa as organizations embrace the empathetic, value-driven and people-focused approach of the agile mindset.

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