BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

There is a significant shortage of tech talent in today’s world, with an expected global deficit of over 85 million tech workers by 2030, according to a recent report by Korn Ferry. Despite this, Africa’s vast youth population makes the continent a promising tech talent source, but poverty, lack of resources, and limited educational opportunities have restricted this potential. A2SV (Africa to Silicon Valley) has risen to this challenge, educating young individuals in African countries like Ethiopia and Ghana with essential technical and soft skills required to meet the hiring standards of tech giants. With Google’s financial backing, A2SV has expanded this educational outreach, directly impacting African communities through digital projects that enhance student skills while solving real problems. Through its initiatives, A2SV aims to unlock and cultivate Africa’s latent tech potential, laying the foundation for a technology-driven future.

Emre Varol, the founder and CEO at A2SV, started with a simple intention. As a software engineer with experience at Google, Palantir, and Liftoff, Varol initially planned to train five software engineering students. However, his 6-month mission evolved into something much greater. Driven by his desire to give back, Varol saw the potential in these young professionals, realizing an opportunity to make Africa’s untapped tech talent employable by top tech companies and drivers of much needed local solutions.

The initiative is a win-win scenario for both companies and the students. After securing an internship, students work with industry giants in Europe and the US, where they engage in the development of large-scale products and services. These experiences, alongside mentorship from seasoned engineers, foster professional growth and transformation.

Companies, in turn, gain a risk-free opportunity to assess fresh talent without any long-term commitments. The rewards are remarkable, with students earning salaries up to $9000 per month at companies like Google, significantly more than their median family income of just $120 per month. This disparity highlights the significant yet measured impact A2SV is having, moving beyond traditional education to support and uplift a new generation of tech talent in Africa.

In 2020, A2SV partnered with Addis Ababa University, setting the stage for an extraordinary journey. They initially took in 22 students, followed by 33 more the next year. These were not mere numbers; each represented a life-changing opportunity. By supplying fundamental infrastructure, including laptops and internet connection, A2SV ensured that even financially disadvantaged students had the tools they needed to thrive. As for the results, A2SV’s students have shattered expectations, achieving a remarkable 70% success rate in Google’s rigorous interviews. Over 40 of these students landed roles at prestigious tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Bloomberg. Considering that 89% of the participants come from households earning less than $102 per month and often face challenges like power and internet outages, this is indeed an incredible achievement. Driven by this success and supported by Google, Emre has been inspired to expand A2SV to other universities and countries like Ghana. Now nurturing over 300 students, A2SV’s mission goes beyond teaching skills; it’s a commitment to building futures and igniting dreams for aspiring engineers across Africa.

Emre reflects, “The world is facing a shortage of tech skills, and the lack of opportunities for Africa’s bright young minds is a real shame. Africa is home to millions of young people who truly deserve a chance, but many in the developed world overlook the privilege of stable internet, continuous power, and quality education. I began this journey doing what I could, and it’s grown beyond my imagination, thanks to mentors, teachers, and companies like Google. In our own humble way, we’ve transformed lives.

Lydia Gashawtena’s story reflects the transformative impact of A2SV. Before joining the program, her dream was to complete her university degree, pursue higher education, and eventually secure an influential job in the tech industry. Yet, joining A2SV was a turning point that reshaped her path. Placed in a dynamic environment at Google that she describes as “challenging yet comfortable and full of learning, encouragement, and inspiration,” Lydia’s ambitions were fast-tracked. Securing a full-time job at Google wasn’t just an achievement but a realization of what she once deemed impossible. A2SV didn’t just guide her; it instilled belief, teaching priceless lessons and skills. With a bright career at her fingertips, Lydia sees herself as a catalyst for Africa's growth, ready to channel her learnings back to her community.

Emre concluded, “My vision is to expand this program to other countries, impacting many more lives. Our growth journey has already begun with our expansion to Ghana. We equip our students with tech courses in data structures, algorithms, and machine learning, and help them hone their soft skills through real-world scenarios requiring problem-solving and effective communication. Unlike conventional college programs, we expose them to concrete, practical projects, bridging the gap between academics and the industry. Our education goes beyond textbooks, targeting true real-world readiness. Together, with the support of top tech companies, universities, and donors, we can transform lives and bridge the skills and opportunity gap across Africa. Join us in our mission to empower the next generation of African tech talent. Visit our website to learn more, donate, or get involved.