The annual Python programming conference for professionals, entrepreneurs, scientists, academics and students.
PyCon Namibia 2023 was held in Windhoek, at Kleines Heim Pension and Conference Centre from 21st to 23rd February.
The eight edition of Namibia's annual PyCon continued the efforts made in previous years, to develop the software skills of Namibian programmers and help new programmers discover Python. As usual, PyCon Namibia was attended by visitors from countries across Africa and beyond.
This year, PyCon Namibia aimed explicitly to advance careers and opportunities for African programmers. Data science continues to be a hot topic, and the theme of solving real-world problems also stood out.
PyCon NA was featured on Good Morning Namibia three weeks before the event, and an NBC crew came to the conference to interview organisers and film participants. We were also interviewed by The Business Report on Nova 1035 Radio (our interview starts at 1:02:10).
Both absolute newcomers to programming and highly experienced software professionals come to PyCon Namibia, and our talks and workshops reflected this.
We held a packed programme of sessions over three days.
Angelique Trusler introduced the Carpentries, and we're looking forward to future collobaration between the Carpentries and the Python Software Association of Namibia. Also in the field of skills for research, the Software Sustainability Institute of the UK supported a software documentation workshop. We put students directly in touch with the Tableau Academic Program.
The glue that holds a PyCon together is its local community, and that includes local businesses. This year we were delighted to have a number of Namibian software businesses present, who discussed ways of developing local skills through internship and other programmes. We hope that what they saw at the conference will also encourage them to take a more active role in supporting the event and community in the future.
PyCon Namibia has already established relationships with Python programmers in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and Ghana. This year we were thrilled to have two new nations represented, with the participation of Candido Mendes from Angola and Fosso Arcel from Cameroon.
This year we explicitly chose careers as a focus.
We ran multiple talks and panels dedicated to careers: careers in data science, careers through open-source software, careers via non-engineering backgrounds, careers from the perspective of the recruiter, careers as deliberate choices. There is software talent in Namibia, but without networks of support and shared knowledge of what’s possible and how to navigate it, opportunities will remain elusive - and that's what we aimed to address.
PyCon Namibia has successfully given Namibian programmers a helping hand into careers in the international software industry, and has given others the confidence to step into software as a professional choice - they are role models, examples that other aspiring software professionals can follow.
We maintained our strong educational tradition. Many free, heavily-discounted and sponsored tickets were made available to students at different levels.
Our attendees included a cohort of pupils from Windhoek Technical High School, encouraged to attend by their teacher Mr Rohan Bezuidenhout - who himself attended previous editions while still a student. The organisers were delighted with the engagement and enthusiastic participation of the pupils.
In addition, a number of Masters degree students in different disciplines participated, several of them generously attending courtesy of our sponsor Adaire.
A pattern that we first saw a few years ago continues: data science is one area where Python really matters in Namibia. This was reflected in the number of session proposals we received in that field.
The multiple talks and workshops we ran were packed, and full of eager engagement from participants. Sessions included a Humble Data workshop for beginners, an MLOps workshop, and talks on data science careers, tools and methodologies.
Python is a toolbox for the real world.
Ronald Maravaniyka told the story of how Python saved thousands of jobs at a Zimbabwean pharmaceutical factory, helping to identify the cause of overheating problems that threatened to cause the shut-down of the plant. Festus Abiatar demonstrated how Python and Django made it possible to automate time-consuming administrative operations in his department in the Ministry of Home Affairs.
PyCon Namibia once again received contributions in financial sponsorship and other support from organisations across the world. Many thanks to all our supporters.
We're deeply grateful to the private individuals who support us, for personal reasons, from their own pockets.
We extend a special thank-you to our dear friends in the Czech Python community, who have helped us in many different ways since our first encounters.
PyCon Namibia is a non-profit event. Everything we achieved this year, as in previous years, was accomplished by unpaid volunteers who work in their free time.
To provide some financial context, this three-day event for over 90 people had a total budget of less than US$ 7000 (N$ 127'000). Most of the conference budget was spent on catering. Approximately US$ 1300 (N$ 23'600) was spent as financial assistance for speakers travelling from other countries in the region.
Ticket sales earned us about US$ 1300 (N$ 23'900). Our other source of income was sponsorship and donations by individuals.
At the conclusion of the event, our overall financial balance is a little over US $100 (N$ 1850). In other words, we were once again able to run PyCon Namibia without going into the red.
The financial balancing act is as difficult as ever. Once again, we relied on the great generosity of local supporters eager to support this Namibian initiative, who lent us their time and resources. They are part of what makes PyCon Namibia a true community event, that belongs and responds to its local community and relies on it.
A special thank-you goes to Jacob Marengo Secondary School, who lent us AV equipment and other necessaries.