by Joanne Carew

6 South African education companies using tech to fill the IT skills gap

Aug 08, 2021

South African online education companies are training data scientists, software developers and coders to address the country’s massive skills crisis.

South African businesses are running low on skills, particularly technology-related skills like software development and data science. The good news is that there is an increasing number of start-ups and established education companies that offer a broad range of online courses for coders and other tech professionals, as well as platforms on which enterprises can build their own tech-oriented training.

About 77% of organisations are struggling to recruit and obtain critical skills in South Africa for their local and cross-border operations, according to Xpatweb’s Critical Skills Survey 2020/21. As a result, many (76%) are looking abroad. But simply widening the net may not be enough.

The World Economic Forum suggests that digital transformation will create about 133 million new jobs by 2022. But the international NGO cautions that this massive increase in demand is set to cause a global reskilling emergency.

Below, we list several South African companies that offer solutions to help bridge the country’s digital skills gap.


Year Founded: 2008

Headquarters: Cape Town and London

Co-founder and CEO: Sam Paddock

What they do: From the outset, GetSmarter aimed to offer short online courses in partnership with major tertiary institutions. It all began with two local universities — Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town (UCT). Today, GetSmarter are the poster child for education tech in Souh Africa, delivering premium online short courses from top-tier universities around the world, including the University of Cambridge, Harvard University and MIT.

Why they’re an education/training company to watch: In 2017, Getsmarter was acquired by 2U, a U.S.-based educational technology company. The price tag for the deal was US$103 million in cash plus an earn-out provision of as much as $20 million.


Year Founded: 2016

Headquarters: Cape Town

Founder and CEO: Kobus Louw

What they do: Digemy provides an online learning management platform designed to let businesses to create and deliver training material. The start-up offers audio, video and text-based content available on PCs and mobile. Digemy aims to help learners build and retain knowledge. The start-up’s white-labelled, content-creation system embraces a gamified approach to learning, which continuously measures each learner’s knowledge in order to repeat information at just the right frequency to maximise long-term knowledge retention, without increasing learning time.

Why they’re an education/training start-up to watch: In response to COVID-19, the start-up generated interest by launching a free, gamified e-learning platform to educate users on everything they needed to know about the pandemic. The platform offers everything from an explanation of what the virus is in simple terms to tutorials with practical measures people can take to prevent the spread of the virus.


Year Founded: 2012

Headquarters: Cape Town

Founder and CEO: Riaz Moola

What they do: HyperionDev offers online coding courses — which they call boot camps — with the goal being to close the skills gap by providing an accessible alternative to traditional university degrees. These courses are offered online or on-site at one of their two campuses. With course content covering everything from web development and software engineering to data science, the company wants to give individuals the opportunity to start or switch to a career in tech, fast.

Why they’re an education/training company to watch: During and after the first COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, HyperionDev hit its highest ever number of active users, with 254% growth and over 100,000 registered students.


Year Founded: 2015

Headquarters: Cape Town

Co-founder and CEO: Gavin Krugel

What they do: The Digital frontiers institute (DFI) offers a range of digital money, finance, tech and business courses. DFI provides an interactive platform where students can connect and collaborate across countries with access to monthly webcasts and the opportunity to engage in debates via blogs, forums and live chats. They also offer data repository of materials, including ongoing research and case studies.

Why they’re an education/training start-up to watch: DFI’s range of courses means that they have a something for everyone. Courses include, for example, a five-week blockchain and cryptocurrency course, a general introduction to the use of digital payments in humanitarian aid, and a four-week course exploring the use of digital tools by smallholder farmers and others across the agricultural value chain.


Year Founded: 2015

Headquarters: Johannesburg

CEO: Nyari Samushonga

What they do: WeThinkCode is a training and placement company that develops in-demand African tech talent. It seeks to eliminate South Africa’s digital skills shortage by partnering with corporations to offer a free two-year coding programme to students. For every year of study, students will spend eight months at the WeThinkCode campus and four months gaining work experience via an internship with a sponsor company.

Why they’re an education/training start-up to watch: In 2019, WeThinkCode_ launched its WomenThinkCode_ initiative, which aims to address gender disparity in the tech industry. The start-up also launched its SME Placement Programme, which pairs skilled junior software developers with the programme’s SME partners. The company uses a leanring management system to deliver curriculum content, though they offer in-person courses.


Year Founded: 2015

Headquarters: Cape Town

CEO: Ben Pike

What they do: MasterStart offers short courses online for working professionals. These courses are from the Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Stellenbosch Business School, UCT Graduate Business School and MasterStart itself. Course topics include Digital Transformation and Risk Management as well as Developing Female Leaders and Negotiation Skills.

Why they’re an education/training start-up to watch:  During 2021, MasterStart plans to expand its partnerships with universities and other global bodies. Keen to capitalise on the massive growth in online education as a result of the pandemic, MasterStart wants to position itself to take advantage of this opportunity both in South Africa and internationally.