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One in four SA software coders taught themselves

OfferZen’s first State of the Software Developer Nation survey reveals skills, experience and salary trends in SA tech community



Picture credit: OfferZen

Software developers in South Africa don’t need a university degree to earn a good salary. In fact, one in every four developers are self-taught coders, who actually start out earning slightly more than those with a formal qualification.

That’s according to technology talent marketplace OfferZen’s first State of the Software Developer Nation survey, which polled over 4000 developers last month to find out about skills, work experience and opportunities among the South African developer community.

Dubbed one of the most in-depth surveys conducted with SA developers, the key findings of OfferZen’s survey indicate that:

  • Python is one of the fastest-growing major programming languages, second only to Javascript in the ranks of programming languages that local developers want to use in 2020.
  • The younger developers start coding, the more they earn. Those who started coding before the age of 12 earn the biggest salaries.
  • Apart from salary, the top perks that developers look for in a job are flexible hours and remote work. They also care more about company culture than the tech stack. The #1 reason developers in South Africa turn down a job is a lack of growth opportunities.

“We live in an age where software is literally changing the world. But software doesn’t write itself,” says OfferZen’s VP Growth, Stephen van der Heijden. “People are the foundation of winning software teams. We have a community of more than 90,000 people that we engage with regularly – so we set out to ‘take the pulse’ of the local dev community, and reveal what developers want, need, and look for in their careers.”

Education and learning: catch ‘em young

The younger developers start coding, the more they are likely to earn. Just over half of all respondents who started coding before they started high school now earn more than R60 000 per month, while 60% of those who only started in their late 20s earn less than R30 000 per month.

While most respondents came from formal education streams, just over a quarter are self-taught coders. Interestingly, self-taught developers earn similarly and in some instances even more that their formally educated counterparts.

Career prospects: the future is bright

On average, the best-paying industries for developers right now are FinTech, Cloud, Healthcare and eCommerce. The top-earning intermediate developers are those in FinTech, who earn more than R39,000 per month on average. Intermediate developers  in web development or design take home the least, with an average of R28,211 a month.

For junior developers, the sweet spot is data and analytics, at an average salary of R25 638, while senior developers earn the most in cloud-based solutions, taking home R67 276 on average.

South Africa’s 12th official language: Javascript

The majority of developers in South Africa list  JavaScript as one of their primary languages, ahead of C#. However, Python is rapidly slithering up the charts, and is in second place on developers’ ‘want-to-learn’ list, after being the fifth most used language in 2019.

If you want to make more money as a developer in South Africa, go with Go or Ruby – they are amongst the skills that pay the most, across all levels of experience. PHP developers earn the lowest salaries, no matter how much experience they have.

The future of work in South Africa

No matter the industry, salary is the number one thing developers in South Africa consider when weighing a job offer. This is closely followed by flexi-hours and the option to work remotely.

“Importantly, developers in South Africa care more about company culture than the tech stack says Van der Heijden. “And the leading reason developers in South Africa turn down a job remains a lack of growth opportunities – if they’re not convinced that a role can offer professional growth, there’s a good chance that they’ll turn it down.”

When it comes to how South African developers want to participate in the global economy, 86% of developers in South Africa are open to moving abroad – but only 1 in 5 developers are actively looking for overseas opportunities. The biggest reason they are looking abroad is personal safety, followed by professional growth and the opportunity to make more money.

It’s called Slaapstad for a reason

More than 50% of developers in Gauteng wake up before 6am, while only 30% of Capetonian developers are early birds. Of the developers who wake up later than 10am, 75% are based in the Mother City.

Oh, and make sure your company serves good coffee. While developers across all experience levels seem to like their caffeine kick, most developers with more than 15 years of experience under their belts drink more than three cups per day.

“In general the report shows us that the South African developer community is thriving,” says Van der Heijden. “Developers are satisfied in their jobs, see significant opportunity in the industry, and work in environments that allow them to innovate and prosper

“We’re super excited about being able to share these insights with the tech community. We sit on a wealth of platform data on how developers looking for jobs interact with companies, but until this report have had to reserve those kinds of insights for the companies that actively hire developers through us. We hope the report adds value to those that read it and helps them gain a better understanding of how they can build or be a part of winning tech teams.”

Click here to view the full report.


The shape of the SME future

What does the future of technology look like for South Africa’s SMEs? COLIN TIMMIS, general country manager of Xero SA and a professional accountant, looks into the tech crystal ball



Over the past decade, technology has radically changed the way businesses operate. Now, even small businesses have access to powerful tools that were previously expensive or complicated.

The pace of change has been rapid – and it’s unlikely to slow down. Businesses must keep up with technology to stay competitive. According to research conducted by Citrix, 92% of companies across South Africa’s key industries agree that digital adoption directly affects company profits. However, 54% still feel unprepared for the future.

So, what does the future of technology look like for South Africa’s small businesses? How can the other 46% of companies prepare?

5G and WiFi 6 – faster internet speed

In the foreseeable future, we will see a rapid increase in the use of fibre across South Africa. According to Xero’s State of Small Business Report produced with World Wide Worx, 49% of small businesses surveyed used ADSL connections and only 37% used fibre. When asked to describe their internet connections, 45% said they were ‘great’, while 43% said they were ‘okay but not 100% reliable’. 57% of those who said their connection was ‘great’ were fibre users.

South Africa is still playing catch-up in terms of internet connectivity and speed. However, WiFi 6 is set to improve the way routers distribute traffic to connected devices and increase the transfer speeds by around 30%. For when you’re on the go, 5G is the next generation of mobile data standard. It’s already being trialed by South African carrier Rain, and a broader rollout is expected in 2020.

Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence – more efficient software

Even if you aren’t aware of it, you’re probably already using smart software which leverages machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) in your business. While only a tiny proportion of respondents (0.25%) from Xero’s State of Small Business Report say they are using them, most businesses are aware of how important they are.

AI and ML are great at taking large amounts of data and spotting patterns that humans might miss. They help businesses cover some of the more routine tasks so they are freed-up to focus on the most important priorities. For example, tedious tasks like bank reconciliation, can now be completely automated.

Blockchain – safer, more secure transfers

If you hear ‘blockchain’ and think ‘cryptocurrency,’ you’re not alone. However, the technology also has something to offer when it comes to existing payment technologies. Through its complexity and high level of encryption, integration with blockchain can make transferring valuable assets more secure. It can also be used for more effective fraud prevention and other security-focused tasks.

The cloud – access data everywhere

Cloud computing is starting to become a standard part of life for many small businesses in South Africa today. According to Xero’s State of Small Business report, 19% of respondents surveyed make use of cloud technology. Of these respondents, 98% reported a significant increase in profit thanks to adopting this technology – and 99% identified an increase in efficiency.

The trend towards cloud adoption is likely to continue as we see the development of technologies, like faster speed through fibre, WiFi 6, 5G, and machine learning powering it.

Integrated financial software

When it comes to accounting in a small business, these new technologies will enable much smarter ways of working. Take bank reconciliation, for example, where cloud storage and machine learning will search through documents and expenses on your behalf to compile reports.

Eventually, we will be able to access everything we want in one integrated, seamless hub. We can see this development through the use of app integration. Xero has 800+ apps already compatible, which enables small businesses to automate, gain better insight and grow their businesses all through one ecosystem of partners.

Access to capital

Open banking, the process of banks and financial services opening their APIs to the market, will shape how businesses access funding. By sharing their financial data instantly, potential investors have immediate access to a company’s revenue, profits and cashflow – enabling them to make fast, informed decisions.

Platforms like Xero keep all of a company’s financial data up to date. That way, when the company needs to file for a loan their documents are ready to go. Xero is also continuously pursuing new partnerships to help fuel small business growth. Earlier this year Xero partnered with three new alternative lenders, to help improve access to funding.

Digital adoption offers an island of stability in the volatile South African economy. Technology allows businesses to run more efficiently, remain globally integrated, and maximise their profits. Companies which keep up with the latest technology, from incorporating it into their processes to training staff, will have a real advantage over their competitors.

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Cash is here to stay, and other trends shaping payments



As we enter the next decade, local and African merchants should support payment methods that suit their customers, rather than following global trends just for the sake of it. Peter Harvey, MD of payment service provider, DPO SA, looks at five trends we can expect over the next few years.  

  • Cash is here to stay – for now

Despite common perceptions, South Africa still has more than 11 million unbanked individuals and cash remains the preferred payment method for these and many other customers. 

Harvey says: “As we enter 2020, we can expect a host of new digital payment technologies that sound like excellent options – and they may well be for some – but merchants need to carefully monitor their customer behaviour before they rush to try the latest gadget or fad.”

According to Harvey the banks and card companies like Visa and Mastercard will be placing a large focus on enticing consumers to move from cash to card-based payments in the coming years. 

“Overcoming the reliance on cash will take a fair amount of time and effort,” says Harvey. “For merchants trading in a cash-based community, depositing money into a bank that tracks your spending, charges you to store your money, and then charges you again to withdraw it can seem unattractive. At the end of the day consumers will make their decision based on convenience, cost and risk.” 

Card payments are expected to morph over the coming years. In South Africa the tap and pay method is becoming more commonplace. Harvey believes this and other near field communication (NFC) methods of card payments will continue to grow in use as shoppers become more trusting of the technology and retailers see the efficiency benefits of moving customers through their purchase cycle more quickly and easily. 

  • Mobile is still king 

There is no doubt that the means to facilitate most digital payments in Africa will depend on mobile technology. 

According to South African communications regulator, ICASA, South Africa has a smartphone penetration of 80%. In Sub-Saharan Africa meanwhile, the mobile phone penetration is 50% and the GSMA expects smartphone penetration to grow from around 40% to 66% in 2025. 

Harvey says smartphone technology and wearable technology will allow for the growth in some of the newer payment tech, like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, but these payment methods will remain in the hands of the top LSMs and have little effect on the bottom of the pyramid customer base. 

“For the moment USSD technology will still underpin the majority of mobile payment methods. Until smartphones increase in penetration, payments like m-Pesa will continue to dominate. Customers know and trust the solution and its these types of offerings that will need to be beaten by any new entrant over the next two to three years at least.”

  • New decade, new banks 

Harvey is upbeat about the new digital-only bank offerings like Tyme Bank, Bank Zero and Discovery Bank. 

“It appears that 20Twenty was two decades too soon,” says Harvey. “The local markets are now finally ready for a new digital offering without the fuss and cost of the traditional offering. These banks stand a good chance of making an impact and making headway towards financial inclusion in the country.”

Harvey believes, that in order to boost the number of people using digital payments, the banking institutions, merchants and payment service providers need to start incentivising consumers to make the switch. Loyalty and Rewards will start playing an even bigger role in the near future.

  • New services for the payment ecosystem

Based on demand, Harvey believes forward thinking payment service providers will work closely with their banking partners to focus on providing their mutual merchants with a ‘fully managed service’. This service includes: instant sign-up; a full suite of payment products; risk screening; account reconciliation; anti money laundering checks; access to shopping cart plugins; and a variety of other value-added services in the online digital payment space.  

These services will enable digital retailers to quickly and easily start selling their services online, while protecting them from the associated risks.

The service benefits the banks as well as the broader digital ecosystem, as the payment service provider actively monitors and manages merchants and transactions, removing risk from the process and facilitating ‘good’ transactions.

  • Identity technology takes centre stage

Looking at newer technologies, Harvey believes biometrics will continue to be the key focus.  

Harvey says voice and facial recognition are set to take off in South Africa in 2020 and 2021 and he believes the key driver in this regard is the increasing use by the government. 

“Banks and Home Affairs teaming up for the renewal of ID documents and passports is a major win for the average citizen,” Harvey says. “This falls neatly into the ‘convenience’ motivator and as people use and trust the biometrics used by the banks for this service,  they will become less afraid to try it for payments.”

As technology rapidly improves, the payments ecosystem can expect some exciting advancements over the coming decade. Chat commerce and even augmented and virtual reality developments will almost all come with payment features. However, Harvey cautions against over exuberance. 

Harvey says “Make sure you cater for what your customer actually wants, not what you think they should want. If working closely with African merchants, banks and customers has shown us anything, it’s that the fastest way to drive away business, is to dictate how customers pay. Provide the options and let them choose.”

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