Building an R community in Africa

R 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. Seeing useRs evolve from just being groups of academic researchers completing their PhD or master’s degrees to attracting groups of people using R at their workplaces or for their freelance projects has given us confidence that R is part of the future of data science on the continent. When we direct the spotlight on chapters of useRs meeting up every other weekend across Africa, there is a theme of diversity that can easily go unnoticed. This unique representation in the Africa R community 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 put so many women in the community at a great centre stage of starting 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.

Our future

R as a statistical programming language has a great value to the data science community on the continent and it is our role as useRs to show this value in our work, research and education. Our focus is on developing material that shows the amazing facets of R and renders it as an option on the table for potential clients and the community. R has been around for a quarter century and we are starting to see it cross paths with other programming languages thus raising a need to create room for it in learning and early career choices. AfricaR is shining the light on R to build communities, mentor talent and power businesses.