The African ini­tia­tive teach­ing Chi­nese women how to code

African Independent - - BUSINESS - MARIEME JAMME

THE EV­I­DENCE that China is Africa’s friend and largest trad­ing part­ner is well doc­u­mented and solidly ar­gued by econ­o­mists like Dam­bisa Moyo.

China has in­vested al­most $1 tril­lion in thou­sands of dif­fer­ent projects in nearly ev­ery coun­try in Africa. In­vest­ment is flow­ing at all lev­els. One need only visit coun­tries like Zam­bia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Mozam­bique, Rwanda, Zim­babwe or my own, Sene­gal, to see the ef­fect of Chi­nese en­gage­ment and com­mit­ment.

This in­vest­ment nar­ra­tive has also cre­ated con­tro­versy, re­jec­tion and dis­com­fort among old colo­nial masters, some African in­tel­lec­tu­als and Western me­dia. But my con­ti­nent has been left with few op­tions for ex­pe­dit­ing its growth and re­duc­ing its poverty.

By 2050, 25% of the world’s 9 bil­lion peo­ple will be Africans and most of them will be un­der 30, unem­ployed and young women. This lat­ter group will be the most vul­ner­a­ble as they also face the threats of early marriage and hu­man traf­fick­ing.

In this re­la­tion­ship of con­ve­nience be­tween China and Africa, women and girls are al­ready for­got­ten. We in­tend to tackle this by giv­ing them the skills needed to deal with the dig­i­tal world. In a world where the cen­tre of grav­ity is mov­ing from the US to China, we must in­sist that women and girls are in­cluded.

Data from the Na­tional Bureau of Statis­tics sug­gests the num­ber of fe­male tech­ni­cal pro­fes­sion­als in China is in­creas­ing. In 2013, China had more than 70 mil­lion science and tech­nol­ogy pro­fes­sion­als and 39% were fe­male. At the mid to se­nior level, there are 9% more fe­male tech pro­fes­sion­als than in 2000.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Ro­bot­ics, since 2013 China has be­come the big­gest buyer of ro­bots, eas­ily sur­pass­ing Ja­pan and the US. In Africa the mid­dle class makes up 34% of the pop­u­la­tion and con­sumer spend­ing is ex­pected to reach $2.1 tril­lion by 2025.

We must pre­pare women and girls for the pos­si­bil­ity that “made in China” will be­come “made in Africa”.

Launch­ing this month in China, iamtheCode will equip the Asian coun­try and the African con­ti­nent’s women and girls that they can play a role in the Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion.

Al­though African women are break­ing more bar­ri­ers in tech than Chi­nese women, by 2030 we need to give them the skills to work in the top in­dus­tries re­lated to the Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion. This in­cludes science, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics (Stem) sub­jects, which Africa will des­per­ately need and which will help the con­ti­nent re­spond to Chi­nese de­mand for African tal­ent while pro­vid­ing women and girls with op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing the im­por­tance of Africa and China’s re­la­tion­ship and in re­sponse to the un­par­al­leled de­mand that will arise by 2030, iamtheCode is an African-led global move­ment aimed at mo­bil­is­ing the gov­ern­ment, the pri­vate sec­tor and in­vestors to ad­vance science, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing, arts, math­e­mat­ics en­trepreneur­ship and de­sign ed­u­ca­tion (Steamed). It’s the first time that an African or­gan­i­sa­tion has done this in China. We will part­ner with UNDP China to raise aware­ness of the im­por­tance of hav­ing more women and girls in Stem.

A World Eco­nomic Fo­rum Young Global Lead­ers Ini­tia­tive, iamtheCode aims to teach 1 mil­lion women and girls world­wide to code by 2030.

Its launch in China will take the form of a hackathon and bring to­gether geeks, do-good­ers and in­no­va­tors with dif­fer­ent skill sets, rang­ing from cod­ing, app build­ing and data anal­y­sis, to de­sign­ing so­lu­tions in line with the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals (STGs). The aim is for the event’s at­ten­dees to be 60% fe­male. The best ideas will be de­vel­oped and sup­ported through lo­cal in­cu­ba­tion pro­grammes, men­tor­ing, lo­cal funding and more col­lab­o­ra­tive work on so­lu­tions. The hackathon will also launch a cam­paign to build fur­ther in­vest­ment in the ini­tia­tive.

iamtheCode is a form of di­rect ac­tion to im­ple­ment the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment and im­prove the eco­nomic and tech­no­log­i­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties for women and girls. A lack of data on gen­der is­sues and the in­clu­sion of women, how­ever, is a huge chal­lenge to ini­tia­tives that look to pro­mote gen­der equal­ity and im­prove women’s liveli­hoods.

As such, we hope that en­gag­ing and em­pow­er­ing women and girls to decode the SDGs through tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion will also cre­ate a plat­form for data shar­ing and fos­ter a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the role women and girls play in the data rev­o­lu­tion.

In­no­va­tive women and girls are ur­gently needed to be bold, creative and am­bi­tious to turn the STGs into ac­tions by in­clud­ing their voices and al­low­ing them to have a dig­i­tal foot­print. – WEF

Fol­low the event on twit­ter @i_amthe­code #iamtheCode

Marieme Jamme is founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of SpotOne Global So­lu­tions

PIC­TURE: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS

BRIGHT FU­TURE: Dig­i­tal skills are es­sen­tial for women and girls.

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