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2023 South Africa Report

State of the Software Developer Nation

In this report

South African Tech Trends

Despite a cooling global economy and its impact on the tech industry, South Africa has largely avoided the mass layoffs we've seen in the United States.

Demographics

Introduction

It’s no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic drove many people to adopt new habits in work and play: working, spending, learning, and socialising online more than ever before. This sudden tech boom meant that proactive companies scaled rapidly and investors were bullish: In Africa, more than $4 billion was raised by tech companies in 2021 alone – that’s more than 2019 and 2020 combined.

Now, more than three years since the start of the pandemic, we’re seeing a cooldown: Difficulties in fund-raising and layoffs have rocked the tech market, especially in the United States and Europe. The Russian-Ukraine war sparked fears of recession and muddied the outlook on the global economy.

Amid so much uncertainty, it’s become more important than ever to see the signal in the noise. South Africa's tech industry hasn’t been totally immune to the cooldown, but the data from our latest report gives us reason to be cautiously optimistic: There were no widespread tech layoffs in 2022. In fact, less than 3% of South African developers were retrenched last year. Salaries continue to rise and developers' appetites for new job opportunities seem unscathed.

As someone who has founded several businesses in South Africa, I’ve often felt that our adolescent funding environment has had its benefits. Because funding is less easily available,  local businesses are forced to be lean and retain a certain level of ‘startup scrappiness’ that often gets lost as companies scale and acquire funding.

For developers, this means there continue to be many strong local job opportunities. For companies with solid foundations, this means there continue to be developers who want to work at companies that are smart about their growth.

In 2023, I believe we’ll see more and more businesses switch their focus from rapid growth to capital-efficient growth, which means hiring the right talent to help drive profitability is just as important as retaining your strongest existing team members.

And this year’s data shows that offering a good work-life balance, competitive benefits, and fair salaries are key pillars to hiring, and retaining, South Africa’s developers.

I hope this report provides you with insights that will help you navigate these uncertain times with more confidence.

Philip Joubert
OfferZen Co-founder and CEO
Philip Joubert
OfferZen Co-founder and CEO

Developer Salaries

The best salaries in South Africa are still earned by developers working with niche programming languages, while the tech gender pay gap continues to widen.


Developer Salaries

South Africa's tech gender pay gap widens as we enter 2023

The gender pay gap has widened in the past year

Software engineer salary by gender
Men
Women

Years of Experience

Last year, the gender pay gap started at 6.4% amongst entry-level developers which is now sitting at 13.2%. This widens to as much as 25.7% for senior developers compared to 16.3% in our previous report.

So what explains this disparity? We've explored a framework for thinking about the gender pay gap to see what might be going on here.

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Developer Salaries

Niche languages still pay the highest salaries but Java leads the way amongst frameworks

Want to earn more as a software engineer? Learn Go and Kotlin

Software engineer salary by programming language
Bash
C#
C++
Dart
Go
Java
JavaScript
Kotlin
PHP
Python
Ruby
SQL
TypeScript
YAML

Years of Experience

The best-paying programming languages for software engineers are still in the niche options of Go, Kotlin, and Ruby.

Google-developed Go is the best-paying language for intermediate developers. For developers with more than ten years of experience, Android development language Kotlin makes the biggest bucks.

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Spring and Spring Boot are the best-paying frameworks in South Africa

Software engineer salary by framework
Angular
AngularJS
ASP.net
Django
Flutter
Laravel
Next.js
Node.js
React
React Native
Spring Boot
Spring Framework
Vue.js

Years of Experience

Another factor affecting developers' salaries are the frameworks they've mastered: Java-based Spring and Spring Boot lead the way among frameworks in terms of earning potential.

In fact, developers working with Spring Boot have the highest average salaries from four years of experience onwards.

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Developer Salaries

Developers in Cape Town still earn the highest average salaries but the gap is narrowing

Developers in Cape Town still earn the highest average salaries

Average software engineer salary by location
Cape Town
Durban
Johannesburg
Pretoria

Years of Experience

Since our first annual report in 2019, developers in Cape Town have enjoyed the highest average salaries every year. While the Mother City retains the top spot going into 2023, Johannesburg, Durban, and Pretoria are catching up at the senior level. Gauteng developers with more than ten years of experience are separated by less than 2% difference in salary.

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Backend developers have extended their earning advantage over full stack developers

Software engineer salary by role
Backend
Data Engineer
DevOps Engineer
Frontend
Full Stack

Years of Experience

In our previous report, we found that backend developers earned significantly more than their frontend and full stack counterparts. Our latest data show that they have extended their advantage. The gap is widest at the entry-level: Backend developers with less than two years of experience earn a whopping 33.5% more than their frontend peers and 22.8% more than full stack developers.

However, developers with DevOps skills have an edge over backend developers. Those with four to six years of experience earn 10.9% more than those working on the backend.

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Want more detailed salary information?

Check out our articles on developer salaries.

Angular
React
Node.js
Go
Ruby
PHP

Software Engineer Skills

JavaScript continues to dominate as South Africa's most used language, but C# has risen in popularity since 2022.


Software Engineer Skills

Is 2023 the year of C#?

C#'s popularity has risen amongst South African developers

Most wanted programming languages

  1. Python
  2. TypeScript
  3. C#
vs

Most used programming languages

  1. JavaScript
  2. C#
  3. TypeScript
Software engineers' most wanted programming languages by role
2023
2022

Is 2023 the year of C#? The Microsoft-backed language saw its popularity rise from 18.2% to 23.9% with its fanbase growing most amongst backend and full stack developers.

Why the surge in popularity? VR's popularity among software engineers has nearly doubled since 2022, which might be why more developers are open to exploring paths and widely-used VR engines, like Unity, that involve C#.

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Developer-favourite Python loses users

Software engineers' most used programming languages by role
2023
2022

JavaScript retains its position in the top spot as the most used programming language in South Africa for the fourth consecutive year, but its lead over second-placed C# has narrowed by 16%. TypeScript continues to gain ground among South African developers and is the only language in the top 5 to see its use increase since our last report.

The divide between backend, full stack, and frontend isn't as neat as it might appear. More than a third of backend developers are working with previously frontend-only languages JavaScript and TypeScript on a regular basis.

Despite a slight drop in its overall use, C# saw its use among backend devs increase over the past twelve months. In fact, its 12.5% increase has seen it overtake Python and JavaScript for third place among backend developers.

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Software Engineer Skills

Flutter is climbing the ranks of SA's most-wanted frameworks

Flutter is closing in on React and Angular as the most wanted framework or library

Software engineers' most wanted framework by role
2023
2022

Last year's developer favourite, React, remains South Africa's most wanted framework, but saw a 14.8% fall in popularity. In fact, developers have lost some of their love for many of last year's top frameworks and libraries. Gaining in popularity are ASP.net, Spring Boot, Svelte, and Laravel.

While it's seen its popularity fall slightly, Google-backed Flutter remains in third place. In turn, the gap on the JavaScript frameworks is closing: Only 0.1% separates Flutter from second-placed Angular.

Next.js completes the top ten ahead of Spring Boot: 11.3% of South African developers want to work with the JavaScript framework.


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ASP.net replaces React as South Africa's second most-used framework

Software engineers' most used framework by role
2023
2022

Given C#'s position as the second most widely used programming language in the country, it should come as no surprise that ASP.net has overtaken React as the second-most used framework. In fact, less than 1% now separates it from Node.js in first place.

While JavaScript frameworks take four of the top five spots, they've seen their overall use drop since 2022.

The Java framework, Spring Boot, is one of the few to buck the general downward trend by increasing its popularity share from 11.5% to 12.2%.

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Software Engineer Skills

AWS is still winning the cloud wars, but Azure is preparing for battle

Azure is the most used cloud platform among medium-sized companies

Software engineers' most used cloud platforms
2023
2022

While AWS remains South Africa's most used cloud platform among developers, Azure is closing the gap on its cloud-war competitor. In fact, it is the only cloud platform to see its overall usage increase from 29.1% to 31.4%.

AWS has overtaken Azure as the most used cloud platform at companies with more than 10 000 employees. However, Azure has claimed the top spot amongst companies with 51-200 and 1000-5000 people.

Third-placed Google Cloud Platform won't compete with AWS or Azure for the title in 2023, but it is making inroads at smaller organisations with less than 50 people. It is also the dominant cloud platform in South Africa's eCommerce sector.


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Demographics

The data in this report does not claim to be representative of the entire South African developer population. Any time the term, 'software engineer, ‘developer’ or 'South African developer' is used, it refers to the group of developers who took our #DevNationSurvey between 18 October and 18 November 2022.


In terms of location, we only used Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town in location comparisons due to sample size. In cases where no data slicing occurs, all 4548 valid responses were included. In order to shed light on survey participant characteristics, we’ve included the demographic breakdown of all 4548 valid responses below.

Gender

Race

Location

Role

Age

Industries developers currently work in

Organisation size by employees

Coding experience

Methodology

OfferZen conducted a survey to find out more about skills, work experience and job search behaviour of developers. A total of 6777 people took the online survey between 18 October and 18 November 2022. Of these responses, 4548 were counted as valid because they were from developers, or developers who manage other developers, and are currently living in South Africa.

We hosted the survey itself on Typeform and recruited respondents via emails sent to more than 40 000 software makers in the OfferZen community and social media posts to the public. Data was anonymised in accordance with GDPR guidelines and is housed separate to any and all of OfferZen’s platform data. Percentages may not always add to 100% due to rounding.

Salary in this report refers to gross salary before tax and excludes benefits. Statistical analysis was conducted to verify insights regarding salaries and we have only included claims where we have at least 95% confidence.

About OfferZen

OfferZen is a developer job marketplace by developers for developers. Our platform matches job-seeking developers with exciting opportunities at companies, but this effort actually encompasses a much wider mission: To help developers and their teams thrive in the tech ecosystem.


Over the last six years, this has manifested in a multitude of ways from our core business of helping developers find awesome new jobs, to hosting local maker evenings and tech events, or helping developers share their experiences on our blog. We want to help build an inclusive, transparent, and thriving tech ecosystem.

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