JOHANNESBURG – In recognition of the United Nations’ International Youth Day this week, a new-look SAP Africa Code Week (ACW) initiative officially kicks off across the continent with a number of exciting changes and developments all aimed at empowering Africa’s youth with digital skills learning. Now in its sixth year, ACW is the largest digital literacy initiative on the continent. Over the last five years, the initiative has positively impacted millions of youth and thousands of teachers.
Introduced by SAP, UNESCO and partners in 2015, ACW aims to spark interest in coding through fun and interactive community workshops for youngsters. From the 88,000 students who participated in the first year, to the 3.85 million children and 39,000 teachers who ran +55 000 coding workshops in 37 countries last year, the impact of the initiative has grown significantly.
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. 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.
Commenting on the 2020 initiative’s virtual kick-off, South African TV news anchor, female tech entrepreneur and Africa Code Week Ambassador, Faith Mangope says: “A big part of this year’s Africa Code Week efforts will be focused on engaging more women teachers and students. 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.”
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 adds: “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.”
In addition to the new virtual components of the 2020 ACW initiative, hundreds of SAP expert volunteers from across the globe will also play their part online by working with NGOs and other partner organisations to provide on-the-ground support during this year’s activities. Claudio Muruzabal, SAP’s President of EMEA South says, “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.”