How Ishango.ai is upskilling and creating job opportunities in Data Science for young Africans

DSAA member Ishango.ai shares about the work they are doing to upskill and create job opportunities in data science for young Africans.

With over 1.4 billion people, Africa’s youthful population is one of its biggest assets.  However, according to the African Development Bank, while 10 – 12 million youth enter the workforce in Africa each year, only 3 million formal jobs are created annually. 

The digital revolution is creating more opportunities and is key to addressing this unemployment gap. Equipping Africa’s youth with digital skills and increasing their employability in today’s fast-paced, digitally-evolving world, is crucial, now more than ever.

Below, DSAA member Ishango.ai shares about the work they are doing to upskill and create job opportunities in data science for young Africans.

What inspired the creation of Ishango.ai?

The concept for Ishango.ai was borne out of the COVID-19 pandemic, when two of the co-founders, Eunice Baguma Ball and Naveed Ratansi, had a conversation and recognised that, despite all the difficulties the pandemic had caused, it had also created some opportunities. The most striking possibility was the way remote work was erasing geographical boundaries and reshaping the future of work. 

Out of these realisations, Ishango.ai was created, solely out of the belief that Africa was awash with talent and given access to the right opportunities, would excel globally. This is what led to the birth of Ishango.ai, a social enterprise that would upskill and connect data science talent in Africa to remote working opportunities with companies across the world.

What is the vision?

Ishango.ai is working towards a world where talented African data scientists are not limited by their geographic location; a world where the relevant infrastructure and talent pool exist to facilitate seamless work between global companies and the best African data science talent.

Ultimately, we want to not only build more data science talent in Africa but also connect them with global prospects while representing Africa as a place brimming with talent that can be harnessed to fuel business growth, and drive impact for businesses, not just in Africa, but all over the world.

Why do you think it is important to train more African data scientists now?

Over the years, data has rapidly become one of the most valuable things in the world. It is often referred to as the “new oil”. As more organisations understand the value that leveraging data provides, the demand for data science talent has increased astronomically, above and beyond the available supply of skilled data professionals all over the world. 

We think that there is no better time for Africa to benefit from this growing opportunity than now. Through our fellowship, we are building the skills of budding data scientists in Africa by supporting them to work remotely on real-world projects for global host companies. Fellows get the opportunity to work with world-class, expert data science teams and develop their technical and professional skills.

What makes your programme unique?

One unique aspect of our programme is the global, multicultural exposure fellows experience through Ishango.ai. They get to work alongside data science teams in world-leading organisations and use cutting-edge tools to solve real business challenges. Our model not only benefits the fellows; it also creates real value for the host organisations.

Some of the companies we have worked with have put the solutions developed by our fellows into production. It has therefore been an opportunity for these companies to tap into a talent pool of data science expertise that they otherwise would not have thought to look for in Africa.

How do you make an impact?

We are already seeing the impact our programme has in boosting the career prospects of fellows – 80% of those completing our programme have been able to find a job. Furthermore, together with our network of partners and mentors, we are working to strengthen the pipeline of data science talent in Africa through knowledge exchange and providing access to skills development opportunities. 

In 2022, we partnered with DataQuest to offer 400 scholarships to aspiring data scientists in Africa. We are committed to promoting gender equality in the data science field, and to date, 40% of our fellows have been women. We have also built a support community of over 2500 aspiring female data scientists across Africa.