The state of R in Africa

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Growth of the R ecosystem in Africa

Over the past 2 years, we have seen R transform from just an academic and health care research language to one of the major languages in the budding data science community in Africa. For a long time, data scientists and related disciplines have relied on R and many other packages to analyse data, however, the broader developer community didn’t fully understand its power in the tech industry.
An effective model to enter the Africa developer ecosystem relies on a small group of enthusiasts creating a safe learning environment, documenting and sharing their learning experiences and slowly attracting interested learners. Africa R users group are using this model to introduce R as a language for data science by organising communities across different cities in Africa.

Evolution of chapters and representation

The growth of technical talent in Africa positively correlates with the growth of communities around certain technologies/tools/languages. These communities are creating a long table to share opportunities on the continent. When we shift the spotlight to R in the Africa tech community we see an evolution in useR groups of not only academic researchers using R in their PhD or master’s degrees but also people using R at their workplaces or for their freelance projects.
There is a unique representation in the Africa R community that shows how the useRs have created a safe space for equal active participation. Global communities like R Ladies and Women in Machine Learning and Data Science have given so many women in the community a platform to start R user groups in their localities. The support from these groups has contributed to the early success of R user groups as the safest places to start your data science career.
R Ladies at the Annual Women Techmakers Event

Some of the chapters include Kampala,Lagos,Dar es salaam, Abidjan, Johannesburg,DRC,Cotonou among others.

Events

Monthly Meetups: These are the most popular events in the community. Groups of 10-50 useRs meet every month to learn and help each other with R related issues. They are usually supported by the local useR group in the area and are at the forefront of the growing popularity of data science in the local communities.

SatRday: The R community in Johanessburg and Kampala have both hosted satRday events in April 2019 and May 2019 respectively. These events featured lightning talks and hands-on workshops for R users and were free. These have been the biggest R focused events on the continent for the year and the hope is they will spread to other regional hosts in the coming year.
A useR meetup in Dar es salaam

The Future

R as a statistical programming language has a great value to the data science community on the continent and useRs are showing this value through their work, research and education. Most useR groups in Africa currently focus on developing material that shows the amazing facets of R, rendering it as an option on the table for potential clients and the community. We are starting to see R cross paths with other programming languages thus raising a need to create room for it in learning and early career choices through building communities, mentoring talent and eventually powering businesses.
Follow AfricaR and individual chapters on their social media to view the most recent updates on events.

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