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More young people and students across Africa and in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous economy, are becoming computer literate, with coding and digital skills training, under the “Coding for Employment” programme of the African Development Bank.
The programme began in February 2018, when the Bank, working with technology firms Facebook, Microsoft and the Rockfeller Foundation, embarked on a plan to launch 130 Centres of Excellence across Africa, as part of its Coding for Employment initiative.
With educators and IT experts from the Bank, Facebook and Microsoft Philanthropies designing the curriculum and Rockefeller Foundation supporting the vision with a $2 million trust fund to equip and operationalize the plan, the centres will correct the mismatch between Africa’s youth skills and employers’ requirements.
The programme anticipates that 75% of the trainees will be linked with employment opportunities, while 25% will become entrepreneurs.
By November 2018, the Bank had identified leading academic institutions, the designated “Centres of Excellence”, in Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Cote D’Ivoire, to run the pilot phase of the digital skills training programme. Four institutions, Ahmadu Bello University, Covenant University, Gombe State University and University of Nigeria, Nsukka, were selected in Nigeria.
In December 2018, computer science departments in Covenant University and Gombe State University (GSU) flagged off “Hour of Code” sessions under the Coding for Employment programme in their respective campuses. 62 participants, comprising students and young people from neighbouring communities, attended the one-day classes at Covenant University. GSU recorded 545 participants over the course of three days. All the participants, who were carefully screened and had little or no knowledge of technology, received certificates of participation. 95% of them expressed strong interest in the next level of digital skills, a course scheduled to commence in early 2019.
“The turnout was massive, and the enthusiasm was palpable,” said Yemi Orimolade, one of the facilitators and senior communication manager at Microsoft Philanthropies, the corporate philanthropy subsidiary of the technology firm.
For Dr Bala Modi, Acting Director of ICT at GSU, the impressive turnout and interest of young people from Gombe and neighbouring towns was particularly pleasing. It was an indicator that the youth of Gombe and surrounding Borno, Yobe, Taraba, Adamawa and Bauchi states were keen on moving on with their lives, away from the spate of terrorist attacks experienced in north-eastern Nigeria in recent months.
“It’s been an amazing start for the Coding for Employment programme in Nigeria,” said Uyoyo Edosio, ICT and youth development expert at the African Development Bank. “Across the country, we are observing pent-up demand for basic computing capabilities and digital skills. Africa’s youth will drive the digital transformation of African economies in the emerging fourth and fifth Industrial era.”
Promoting stability and peace in Africa’s once fragile and conflict-prone zones will pave the way for initiatives such as Coding for Employment to flourish, complementing formal and informal education and training programmes targeted at the youth population. With the continent’s youth population projected to reach 830 million by 2050, knowledge of advanced technologies, such as cloud computing, data analytics, mobile, security, social networking and artificial intelligence (AI), will become crucial.
Working with academia, private and public sector institutions, the Bank’s technology development programmes and investments support numerous national development plans and align with its High 5 priorities, especially Integrate Africa, Industrialize Africa and Improve the Quality of Life for the People of Africa.
The Coding for Employment programme is a key pillar of the Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa (JfYA) strategy (2016 – 2025), which seeks to create 25 million jobs across the continent, developing and launching Africa’s next generation of digitally enabled youthful workforce.
Participants performing activities during the Hour of Code at Gombe State University