Hire developers Community Blog Find a dev job Log in
Close menu
Hiring Tips & Insights: The programming languages driving SA’s companies in 2024
Less noise, more data. Get the biggest data report on software developer careers in South Africa.

The programming languages driving SA’s companies in 2024

06 March 2024, by Josh Nel

In this article, we explore the most used languages across South Africa’s smallest and biggest companies, and what this means for your hiring efforts.

OfferZen_5 lessons teaching children coding taught me_inner article.png

Career opportunities are the most important factor when it comes to choosing a programming language

In our latest State of the Developer Nation Report, we found that Python, C# and TypeScript are still the three most desired programming languages. We then asked developers what they consider to be the most important factor when choosing a new language. At the top of the list? Career opportunities. Followed by earning potential.

In a tougher tech job and hiring market, there are more developers for each open role. As a result, it is more important than ever to understand which languages are driving companies forward and how this impacts companies’ talent pools.

This made us ask: What languages are driving SA companies and what does this mean for their hiring efforts?

For this analysis, we looked at the most used languages by company size starting from small companies to enterprises. To do that, we compared the distribution of South African developers working with the most used languages at each of these company sizes to give you an idea of where specific developers typically work.

Note: We didn’t consider salaries for each language, or the industry breakdown of these companies and languages. We’ve covered developer salaries in the 2024 Developer Salary Benchmarking Report and we’ll unpack the industry data in a later article.

PHP is the most used language at small companies

PHP leads the way at small companies with fewer than 10 employees:

1 in 8 PHP developers work at small startups compared to just 1 in 20 Java developers.

It’s common for many of these smaller companies, predominantly using PHP, to be based in the Web Dev sector. Unfortunately, the combo of smaller companies and web development typically pays less compared to other skill sets at larger companies. This might shed some light on why PHP is still one of the worst-paying languages for South African developers.

Developer-favourites Python and C# are mostly used at startups and scaleups

More than of half Python developers in SA work for companies with fewer than 200 employees, making it one of the most popular languages for startups and scaleups:

Python has become the language of choice for data analysis. As companies grow and become larger startups and scaleups, the amount of data they produce increases as well. This uptick in data leads to more complex data analytical problems explaining why we see more Python developers at larger startups and scaleups.

C# on the other hand is widely used at companies with fewer than 200 employees, but likely for different reasons:

The Microsoft-backed language is full stack developers’ most used language after JavaScript. And it turns out, full stack developers are more likely to work at smaller companies. These companies typically value generalist skill sets over more specialised expertise. So, developers with C# experience will have an easier timefinding work at startup and scale-up-sized companies.

Java is the backbone of enterprise companies

When it comes to enterprise companies, Java is the clear winner: 1 in 5 Java developers works for a company with more than 5000 employees. This is no surprise, as larger companies typically require more specialised developer roles, like backend developers, compared to small and medium-sized companies.

Java is also one of the most lucrative languages in the country. This may be because and may be explained by many larger companies typically having deeper pockets for higher salaries. This trend has a knock-on effect for smaller companies: they’ll need to compete on other fronts, like company culture, and innovative tech stacks or interesting business problems.

So what does demand for each of these languages look like? Despite lower salaries, PHP remains a widely used language among South African developers, and there is a healthy supply of experienced developers with this skill. Likewise, Java also has a strong supply of developers.

We can see this playing out in our platform data when looking at the number of job-seeking developers with each skillset over the last three months:

In summary

As we’ve seen, developers’ primary languages reflect the type of company where they typically work. So what does this mean for your hiring efforts?

  • First, it helps to understand who you’re competing against for the best available talent.
    • If you’re a smaller company looking for Java developers, for example, you’ll need to highlight what sets you apart from larger corporates who can likely offer more money.

At the same time, if you’re scaleup looking for C# developers, you’ll likely have a wider pool of developers to hire from.

  • Second, a developer’s company size is another factor that impacts their salary in addition to their programming language.
    • Knowing what sized companies you’re competing against can help you benchmark your offers more effectively.

Further reading:

200+ developers are waiting for you each week
Get access to a curated list of skilled developers, ready to interview.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Subscribe to our blog

Don’t miss out on cool content. Every week we add new content to our blog, subscribe now.

By subscribing you consent to receive OfferZen’s newsletter and agree to our Privacy Policy and use of cookies.