The inaugural edition of HackathonAfrica kicked off on Thursday, September 01, 2022, in Enugu, Southeast Nigeria.
The HackatonAfrica program, a brainchild of the US-based AfricaPlan Foundation, is an intensive software coding boot camp for fresh graduates aimed at tackling the steep digital skills deficit in the Southeast region and creating opportunities for the enterprising youth to tap into the burgeoning technology industry.
With Nigeria’s unemployment rate at more than 35%, the AfricanPlan Foundation said the HackathonaAfrica provides one of several unique opportunities that must be explored to creatively tackle the unemployment crisis through an inclusive and strategic digital upskilling program that creates opportunities for the next generation of young Nigerians to play an active part in the digital economy.
The Hackathon attracted massive interest from youths across the region with over 300 applications received. However, only twenty recent graduates were shortlisted to join the first cohort, which included ten males and ten females, underscoring the Foundation’s strategic commitment to inclusivity and removing biases by granting equal opportunities to both genders.
A unique fully-funded, residential software coding boot camp, HackathonAfrica will last for three months and will encompass intensive hands-on practical training on Fullstack Web Development (MERN) and in the latest and more commonly used software coding programs and databases in tech today.
The founder of the AfricaPlan Foundation, an accomplished technology industry executive and entrepreneur, Mr Oni Chukwu while speaking at the opening ceremony lamented the dearth of digital skills in Africa, which is hampering the ability of the continent to fully tap into the economic opportunities of the technology revolution and its attendant economic empowerment.
He noted that advances in technology, especially in software development have disrupted virtually every industry resulting in a greater disadvantage for any economy without sufficient or commensurate digital skills to meet industry needs. He, therefore, called on policymakers, governments at all levels and concerned individuals to embrace the new reality and put in place deliberate measures that will refocus the energy of the youth and equip them to tap into the technology sector.
In line with HackathonAfrica’s structure and design, the 20 trainees after completing their three months of training AfricaPlan will make every effort to deploy graduates to HackathonAfrica’s partner organisations within and outside Nigeria for their internship, with a stipend from the AfricaPlan Foundation. The long game here, according to Chukwu, is creating a successful pathway to launching successful careers in technology, as well as a pipeline to creating a talent pool for organisations that rely on digital skills on the continent. More partner companies that can join in providing internship opportunities for the students would be welcome.
Some of the participants who spoke to reporters during the ceremony expressed gratitude to the AfricaPlan Foundation for the opportunity and pledged to take full advantage of the programme to start careers in the tech industry.
Israel Chukwu, who studied Product Design Engineering at the university, said, “I finished school about 5 years ago and after the NYSC programme without a job, it puts you in a depressing state; you see your dreams slipping through your fingers. I stayed in Lagos for about two years and now I moved back to my hometown to take up this golden package. I feel glad. I tried coding at age 13 but could not continue. HackathonAfrica is a life-changing opportunity for me and I thank Oni Chukwu whom I have never met before being selected and the team for being thorough in their approach to the program.”
Also speaking at the opening ceremony in Enugu, Mr Jonah Onah, 2022 HackathonAfrica Project Coordinator, reiterated that the programme is anchored on three main objectives, which include upskilling, empowerment and sustainability, adding that AfricaPlan Foundation will leverage the initiative to provide excellent training that will equip youth in Southeast Nigeria with improved skills required to harness opportunities in the software technology space.