How A Tanzanian Coder Became A Tech Mogul

Written by Ann Brown

Tanzanian coder Godfrey Magila has always loved technology. So much so, he actually taught himself to code. His tech innovations earned him a $200 prize at a countrywide hackathon. The monetary prize came with a tech mentoring program.

Today, Magila, 25, is the founder of  Magilatech, a software development and security auditing company he started in 2012. Most recently, Magilatech debuted Tigobackup, a mobile security application offering content backup on mobile devices and anti-theft services.To date, it has recovered more than 3,600 lost and stolen devices.  Magilatech, which employs 14 people, raked in more than $1 million in 2016.

To date, it has recovered more than 3,600 lost and stolen devices.  Magilatech, which employs 14 people, raked in more than $1 million in 2016.

Magila was born in Mbeya in Southern Tanzania. His father died when he was three months old. His mother died when he was six.

“I am an orphan,” said Magila to AFKInsider. “I was raised by my late auntie and uncle. Auntie was a secondary teacher at my school and my uncle was a boarding officer at a shipping company.” His aunt and uncle died in 2010 and 2011, and Magila went on to high school in Dar es Salaam before heading to the Institute of Finance Management at the University of Dar es Salaam.

Magila told AFKInsider how he went from a self-taught coder to a tech mogul.

AFKInsider: How did you first get involved in the tech world?

Godfrey Magila: I used to love how technology works through the love of trying to understand TVs, radios and other toys in relation to how they come to existence. This made my guardians hide any electronic gadget that was at home because I would somehow destroy everything to learn how it operates. This later introduced me to programming after I first familiarized myself with the internet.

AFKInsider: What is it you enjoy about being in the tech world?

Godfrey Magila: I get to solve a lot of problems around my society and make a difference, and it requires a new version of myself every morning I wake up, as it’s an industry that is very time sensitive.

AFKInsider: What did you learn during the tech mentoring program?

Godfrey Magila: I learned on the dos and don’ts of business and among all, how I could turn my passion and skills to business and build impact to my community. I am driven by passion rather than financial gain out of being in the tech industry.

AFKInsider: Why did you create Magilatech?

Godfrey Magila: I created Magilatech without a road map. It wasn’t my plan at all; all I have ever want to do was solving issues on my community using tech and making a change, but somehow it reached a point that I needed to create a company that will let the vision be carried by a team. Therefore in 2012, while still a student, I founded Magiltech to be a software development and security auditing company with an aim to digitize, transform my society through ICT (information and communication technology). It was the only way I could scale up and bring changes to my community very fast.

AFKInsider: Explain some of the services Magilatech provides?

Godfrey Magila: Software Development: Our software development services help the community address evolving social and business technology challenges by defining, designing, and building applications tailored to meet society requirements.

We also offer security auditing. From writing exploits to patching security holes, we provide comprehensive penetration testing services and IT security assessments.

And we are a VAS (value-added services) provider. We provide value added services such as market solutions.

AFKInsider: What is the tech sector like in Tanzania?

Godfrey Magila: Tanzania’s score on the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index (NRI) was low (ranked 118 in 2012), and it continues to lag behind countries such as Uganda (107), Nigeria (104), and Kenya (81). Use is particularly poor among individuals and in the business sector. The 2012 RIA Informal Business ICT Survey highlights the challenges that informal businesses face in using broadband and the negative impact of high prices.

However, two critical events have had an enormous effect on the Tanzanian ICT sector. First is the linking to the SEACOM  (a submarine cable operator with a network of high-speed fibre-optic cable that serves the East and West coasts of Africa) and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) networks in 2009-10.

Second is the launch of the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB), in two phases (2010 and 2012). Allied with the increase in competition in both the voice and data markets, Tanzanians are slowly benefiting from reduced prices. Based on a prepaid mobile voice basket, Tanzania has the third lowest prices after Kenya and South Africa. Based on a prepaid mobile broadband basket, Tanzania is also ranked third, behind Kenya and Ghana.

In addition, Tanzania has completed the digital migration process ahead of time, freeing up the 700 MHz frequency band. Tanzania can build on the gains in the broadband market by making the “digital dividend” frequencies available to broadband suppliers.

The Tanzanian mobile market is considered to be among the most competitive in Africa. All areas of service provision, in both the mobile and fixed sub-sectors, are subject to competition, and the number of licenses allocated is high.

The most aggressive field of competition is mobile, with eight mobile operators competing nationally or regionally. Even with so many mobile competitors, however, Tanzania scores are relatively low on the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index, with the lowest NRI ranking in East Africa. The Tanzanian Government adoption readiness of ICT solutions within its ranks, however, is ranked far higher than that for business or individual.

AFKInsider: What are some of the challenges of running a small business in Tanzania?

Godfrey Magila: There are a few challenges in running a small business here. This includes: 1. Being able to compete; 2. Trying to balance quality and growth; 3. For some type of businesses, there is the problem of founder dependency–when the founder is not there, the business can not operate; 4. Some of the governing regulations for small business can be hindering; and 5. Not having enough capital to execute a business.

AFKInsider: What are some of the advantages of having a business in Tanzania?

Godfrey Magila: Tanzania is in a transition period to technology, so it is a good time to get into the sector. Also, it has a very peaceful business environment and a growing economy. And there is a lot of diversity of sectors and industries.

AFKInsider: Tell us more about Tigobackup.

Godfrey Magila: Tigobackup is an all-in-one security app that provides the best way to store your memories and manage security of your device. It works with or without the internet for its security features. Backup your data and restore anytime with Tigobackup. You can also securely select what to backup on your phone data (contacts, messages, photos, files, videos, etc.). Secure your device using Tigobackup’s anti-theft feature – remote lock, location service, remote wipe, reset prevention, photo capture, simcard change alert, siren. Tigobackup’s call controller to manage your calls incoming, outgoing, and block calls.

AFKInsider:  What are your 2017 goals?

Godfrey Magila: We look to expand the company. Magilatech has opened the Smarter Digital Africa Company that will focus more on delivering solution to Africa.

AFKInsider: How about your long-term goals for your company?

Godfrey Magila: We aim to transform and digitize our society and expand to other sectors, such as the health sector, in terms of the services and solutions we deliver.

AFKInsider: Do you feel the world is missing out on tech innovations taking place in Africa?

Godfrey Magila: No, I think the world has recently spotted the potential Africa holds in the tech space, as we have seen African companies building solutions out of our borders. And the transformation of ICT  in Africa is growing very fast, for example, the adaptation and usage of mobile money which has exponentially grown compared to any other part of the world.