Africa’s biggest digital skills initiative is now underway. SAP Africa Code Week (ACW) officially launched its sixth edition on Monday October 5th with an all-new virtual format and a host of exciting new developments.
Speaking at a virtual event to mark World Teacher’s Day and launch this year’s SAP Africa Code Week, UNESCO Deputy Director-General Xing Qu said this year’s ACW takes place in the unprecedented context of the COVID-19 pandemic. “As distance learning became the norm for most students, this shift has taught us that digital skills are essential. And yet fewer than 30% of people worldwide master basic ICT skills, and only 3% of adults in middle-income countries have coding skills.”
Women also continue to be excluded, continued Mr Xing Qu, as “women and girls are 25 percent less likely than men to know how to use digital technology for basic purposes, according to UNESCO’s flagship publication I‘d Blush if I Could. We all know digital skills are no longer an option – they are a necessity. While COVID-19 is creating challenges, it is also offering opportunities. Due to the pandemic, this year’s ACW is taking place entirely online and, as a result, is covering all 54 countries on the African continent.”
Virtual Training and a Challenge to Hone Skills and Drive Change
Launched September 1st in partnership with SAP, UNESCO YouthMobile and Irish Aid, the AfriCANCode Challenge is a coding competition for students aged 8 to 16 currently taking place across the continent. Invited to compete individually or in teams, young participants (a.k.a. ‘Courageous Coders’) are on a mission to imagine the future of education with a Scratch game and 2-minute video explaining why their code should win. Fostering a wide range of essential skills from problem-solving and coding all the way to teamwork and communications, the challenge will see the top 3 winners from each participating country compete at the pan-African level. Final results will be announced later this year.
A 2016 study found that nearly 69 million new teachers are needed by 2030 : they are indispensable in the fight for quality education for all and the fulfillment of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, as well as SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. But the COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted schooling across the continent, with an estimated 250 million primary and secondary school children in Africa not attending school and a prevailing shortage of teachers hampering efforts at providing every child with primary and secondary school education.
In response to this, ACW partners have refocused efforts towards virtual capacity building. The ACW Teacher Training season kicked off on September 21, with hundreds of virtual training sessions taking place all over the continent thanks to the hard work of public, private and nonprofit partners supporting the initiative in every participating country.
Virtual Learning to Support Capacity Building
Two-thirds of Africa’s population is expected to make use of a smartphone by 2025, and 84% of the population – more than one billion people – will access a SIM connection by the same year.
On a mission to facilitate learning and teaching beyond classroom walls, the new ACW App is the other major development brought by this 6th edition and being launched today. Available in English, French, Portuguese and Arabic, it allows students and teachers to access dedicated resources anytime, anywhere from their Android device.
“Over the past five years, Africa Code Week has grown into a trusted repository of free and open-source resources that support both students and their teachers on their digital empowerment journey,” said Claire Gillissen-Duval, Director of EMEA Corporate Social Responsibility and Co-founder of Africa Code Week at SAP. “With the growing access to mobile technology across the continent and the increasing prevalence of online learning, we believe the time is now to facilitate access to quality educational content with a mobile app,” said Gillissen-Duval.
According to Albert Nsengiyumva, Executive Secretary of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and official ACW Patron there is need for a consolidated effort from the public and private sectors as well as civil society to close the digital gender gap. “We need to jointly provide affordable access to digital tools and remove barriers to women and girls’ full participation in the digital economy. We are seeing great innovation in the use of technology driven by women. We have made a good start, but we now need a consolidated effort to ensure this progress can continue and sustain over time.”
In 2019, ACW empowered 3.85 million youth with basic coding skills, with female participation standing at 47%. In addition, more than 39,000 teachers were mobilized across the continent.
Cathy Smith, Managing Director at SAP Africa, said: “Teaching young kids to code is a gift that will endure for decades to come. It is critically important that we take advantage of our most precious resource, our youth. If we harness this resource by empowering it with digital skills, Africa will go from strength in 2020 and beyond.”
Inputs from SAP