Two years ago, 26-year-old Eugene Mutai was unable to afford a university education, so the Kenyan worked low-paying jobs--including farming and driving a boda-boda, or motorcycle taxi--while teaching himself to write code. Then, in 2015, he qualified for a fellowship with Andela, a startup that provides talented people from all over the continent with top-notch computer-science instruction. Now Mutai is studying more than 20 skills, from version control to project management, while earning the Kenyan equivalent of a middle-class salary. After a year of training, he'll be matched with a U.S. or international company in need of a highly skilled tech worker. "What's most important to me is the oppor­tunity to reach for higher and higher goals," he says.

"There's just such need on both sides," says Jeremy Johnson, one of Andela's four co-founders. "Africa has the largest pool of untapped brainpower in the world. Companies are struggling to find talent, let alone great talent." Andela, which launched in 2014, capitalizes on the economic disparity between Africa and the West while stepping into the skills gap that leaves many Western employers desperate for programmers. Andela's students, called fellows, undergo an intense six-month training period at one of two schools, in Lagos, Nigeria, and Nairobi, Kenya. They continue studying for three and a half years while working remotely for companies in the U.S., Europe, and Africa. The arrangement pays the fellows, covers the cost of their training, and expands Andela.

Andela counts some two dozen companies as partners, including Microsoft, Facebook, and Udacity, and 50 fellows are working with them. The company has reportedly received more than $10 million from investors, including Blake Mycoskie's Toms Social Entrepreneurship Fund, Chris Hughes (formerly of Facebook), Steve Case (formerly of AOL), and the Omidyar Network. There are 170 fellows so far, and Andela adds about 10 more every month. "We want to train 100,000 young people across Africa over the next 10 years," Johnson says. He'll have no shortage of candidates; he says Andela has received more than 15,000 applications. "No part of the [application] process was easy," Mutai says. "But as I went through each step, it helped reinforce that I'd found the right place for me."

From the March 2016 issue of Inc. magazine