Pupils assemble contents from the robotics kit together during the Robotics and Coding Club Meeting at the Sedi-Laka Primary School in Ivory Park on September 12, 2108, in Johannesburg. - (Photo by WIKUS DE WET / AFP)

By Dumisani Sigogo

In its sixth year running the Africa Code Week (ACW) the largest digital literacy initiative on the continent officially kicked off the 2020 United Nations’ International Youth Day with a number of changes and developments aimed at empowering Africa’s youth and young women with digital skills learning.

Introduced by SAP, UNESCO, and partners in 2015, with the aim to spark interest in coding through fun and interactive community workshops for youngsters, the ACW initiative has positively impacted millions of youth and thousands of teachers.

The new-look SAP Africa Code Week which is now fully online said it has grown tremendously in terms of the number of participants as a result, the 2020 ACW efforts are shifting to a virtual model and this will allow expansion of the program’s reach to 54 African countries with all learning materials translated into Portuguese and French for the large Francophone and Lusophone African communities.

From the 88 000 students who participated in the first year, to the 3,85-million children and 39 000 teachers who ran more than 55 000 coding workshops in 37 countries last year, the impact of the initiative has grown significantly.

South African TV news anchor, female tech entrepreneur and Africa Code Week Ambassador, Faith Mangope said this year’s initiative will be focusing on increasing the number of more female students and teachers

“Globally, women hold only 24% of jobs in the ICT sector, and there are 250-million fewer women online than men. Our mission is to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to attain the skills they need to contribute meaningfully to the future workforce.”

A new ACW mobile app will also be introduced this year, providing easy access to smartphone material in support of all-inclusive learning. The ACW initiative will continue to work closely with Ministries of Education across the African continent, with a view to promoting sustainable digital skills development capacity.

Another development for this year is the AfriCANCode Challenge which is a coding competition aimed at engaging participants through a number of fun and exciting activities. This ACW competition invites youth, aged 9 to 16 either individually or in teams, to use their skills and creativity to solve problems.

Two competition themes have been identified: ‘Courageous Coders’, focused on how technology can change the world, and ‘Plugged-in Pupils’, which asks youngsters to imagine the potential related to tomorrow’s connected school.

Commenting on the AfriCANCode Challenge and the urgent need to prepare youth with digital skills learning, Moez Chakchouk, assistant director-general for communication and information at UNESCO, says: “More than 60% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is under the age of 25, making it the most youthful region in the world.

“The continent’s working-age population is expected to swell by two-thirds reaching 600-million by 2030. It’s clearly critical to ensure Africa’s youth is fully equipped with 21st-century digital skills. Harnessing the power of creativity, technology and innovation can also inspire us to unite and be ready to meet today’s challenges.”

Claudio Muruzabal, SAP’s president of EMEA South, said: “Offering accessible, hands-on digital support to Africa’s youth and teachers helps put people in a position to meaningfully participate in today’s digital economy.

“This is vital and SAP’s commitment to Africa Code Week remains firm. Through invaluable partnerships with UNESCO, ADEA, Irish Aid, BMZ, and all the partner NGOs across Africa, the 2020 ACW initiative can effectively leverage the skillsets of networks and knowledgeable local ICT experts to ensure every workshop is a sound success,” said Muruzabal.