The 2021 edition of SAP Africa Code Week (ACW) saw more than 1,8-million young people between the ages of 8 and 16 equipped with 21st century learning and coding skills via 41 000 workshops held across the continent.

Since 2020, there has been a 23% increase in youths trained, bringing the total number of youngsters and teachers empowered to 10-million.

From the time of ACW’s launch in 2015, SAP, UNESCO and key global partners such as the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and Irish Aid, have been on a mission to introduce coding to youth and teachers, one community at a time.

But with only 28% of women pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers, Africa is well below the global average. Year on year, ACW ambitiously aims to increase the participation of women and girls in this field. During the 2021 edition, more than 48% of the participants were girls, while a further 7,848 were young people with special needs.

Olajide Ademola Ajayi, ACW global co-ordinator at SAP, says: “In today’s turbulent post-pandemic digital boom, we need to ensure that no one gets left behind.”

Adding to this, Dr Tawfik Jelassi, assistant director-general for communication and onformation at UNESCO, says: “Noting the extent to which digital skills are increasingly needed to understand and participate in today’s knowledge societies, it is particularly important that we address the gender disparity in STEM careers, especially as these are often described as the jobs of the future, driving innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth and sustainable development.”

To further inspire and prepare girls for tomorrow’s workplace, ACW recently hosted the fourth annual Women Empowerment Program (WEP), a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) program that equips African female educators with the competencies and knowledge they need to successfully teach. The aim of the Program is to close the digital gender gap and help ensure that everyone plays a role in shaping Africa’s future in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In addition to the youth trained, the ACW program also upskilled more than 20 000 teachers during 2021 via its Train-the-Trainer (TTT) sessions. These sessions are a multiplier and enabler for digital know-how to become a core pillar of basic education in each participating country. “Africa has an abundance of potential, but the skills gap in this area is holding us back. With Africa’s rising youth unemployment, education is the key to creating a talent pool ready to take on 21st-century jobs and will ultimately help leapfrog the continent forward. It is Africa’s time to shine,” says ADEA executive secretary and ACW patron, Albert Nsengiyumva.

A highlight of the 2021 edition was the second annual AfriCAN Code Challenge, a pan-African coding competition where young people are tasked with coding a game using the Scratch programming language to help address societal issues. This year, participants were asked how they would save the world with their superpowers, and the winning superheroes were Devansh and Darshika from Mauritius with their Super Recyclers game.

The competition was launched in 2020 in partnership with SAP, UNESCO, Irish Aid, ADEA and Jokkolabs and has since become an annual celebration of youth and innovation in Africa.

“It is only through the power of partnerships that we can help unlock the digital potential of millions more young Africans and empower them to become the leaders of tomorrow’s digital economies,” says Irish Minister for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, Colm Brophy.