You know when you are witnessing something special when targets and goals are given as multiples of earlier figures: double this, quadruple that. So it was at the launch of Africa Code Week on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Africa meeting in the Rwandan capital on Tuesday night.
SAP, which is leading the project, announced it expected to double the reach of the programme this year, from the 89 000 young people who were introduced to code last year.
Who knows what might happen to that multiplier since last year’s target had been to train 20 000 youngsters. In the event, nearly four times as many were trained across 17 countries in 10 days.
Africa Code Week is supported by hundreds of partners including African governments, NPOs, NGOs, educational institutions and businesses including the Cape Town Science Centre, the Galways Education Centre, Google, Ampion, the King Baudouin Foundation and Atos.
With the tag line “Coding is a new language. Every child deserves to be fluent”, the programme’s aim is to foster digital literacy and equip the continent’s rising generation with job-relevant digital skills.
Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s minister for youth and information communication technology, said that literacy today should go beyond just knowing how to read and write, even beyond knowing how to use a computer and basic digital literacy.
“Basic literacy for the next generation should be about coding,” he said.
In addition to drop-ins from a number of government and business leaders gathered in Kigali for the WEF Africa meetings, the launch of Africa Code Week was attended by more than a few of Africa’s hottest young things in the world of coding. And who better to entertain Africans at the cutting edge than the popular South African band Mi Casa.
Word on the street is that the band does more for the programme than provide entertainment, with band members playing a role in training too.
In a statement, SAP said the long-term goal of Africa Code Week was to “empower more than 200 000 teachers and positively impact the lives of five million children and youth over the next 10 years”.
Africa has the fastest growing digital consumer market in the world and the largest working age population. Yet, according to SAP, a market leader in enterprise application software, African companies are scrambling to fill positions with people with the right digital skills.
It is estimated that less than one percent of African children leave school with basic coding skills.
The company noted that Rwanda is an excellent illustration of how investing in ICT skills can transform an economy.
The country is overcoming its difficult past and emerging as a regional hi-tech hub, which is creating enormous opportunities for its rapidly growing young population.
Africa Code Week workshops for younger age groups (12-17 years) will be based on Scratch, a learning platform developed by the MIT Media Lab to simplify coding. Students will learn coding basics and programme their own animations, quizzes and games.
Older students will be taught an introduction to web technologies, giving them a basic understanding of web architecture and how to build a fully operational mobile-friendly website.