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News, 2/17/2017

One hundred days, ten countries – CodeBus Africa started from Ghana

The coding bus departed on a tour of Africa from Ghana this week. The project takes coding experts to ten different countries during one hundred days. This joint project of Finnish missions abroad, Aalto University, Nokia and Supercell is part of Finland’s centenary celebrations and brings together a number of parties and young professionals’ expertise. People in Ghana were very happy that girls in particular are encouraged to embrace technology and coding.

The idea put forth by the missions in Africa of doing something together in honour of Finland’s centenary celebration gave birth to the idea of a CodeBus. They wanted to mark Finland’s independence by doing something new and different that serves to promote Finland’s central goals in the region.

The bus departed from Ghana and will visit ten African countries. Photo: Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury

The project supports ICT skills and longer-term employment and equality and also strengthens Finland’s country brand and continues long-term cooperation in education, technology and innovation with African countries.The project is a very natural part of promoting Team Finland’s goals and Finnish support for development cooperation in information technology in African countries.

”The project serves to advance Finland’s general goals in the target countries, contributes to a positive image of Finland that is essential for the Team Finland activities and promotes connections between the countries”, says Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury, Ambassador of Finland to Nigeria.

According to Suomela-Chowdhury, the CodeBus highlights Finnish know-how in technology and education and provides a great opportunity to promote these issues in public and in discussions with authorities, policy-makers and the private sector.

Nokia Country Managing Director Ramy Hashem was interviewed in Ghana by the media. Photo: Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury
Nokia Country Managing Director Ramy Hashem was interviewed in Ghana by the media. Photo: Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury

”The role of Nokia as the main sponsor of this project further strengthens this image. Nokia is well known in Nigeria and Ghana and inspires positive images in these countries. People here have welcomed the way girls are taken into account in this project and how they are encouraged to embrace technology and coding.”

A lot to gain and learn for both parties

The project focuses on coding workshops in which young people can create their own music track teamed in pairs in the open source Sonic Pi programming environment.Cooperation between over 20 African and Finnish partners makes this approach possible.

The coordinator of the CodeBus project, Irena Bakić from Aalto University, interviewed by the media in Ghana.  Photo: Vilma Hämäläinen
The coordinator of the CodeBus project, Irena Bakić from Aalto University, interviewed by the media in Ghana. Photo: Vilma Hämäläinen

Coding and technology are skills needed in the future in Finland. Many African countries with very young populations wrestle with similar challenges. Education and youth employment are key challenges in Nigeria and Ghana and other countries on the itinerary of the coding bus. The governments of these countries are trying hard to find solutions to these challenges.

”In this respect, the CodeBus project falls on very good soil. The target countries have huge potential and talent in coding. This is a major win-win project where both parties have a lot to gain and to offer. For Finns the coding bus project is a unique possibility to get to work with carefully chosen, professional and committed African partners.”

Aalto University project worker Vilma Hämäläinen teaches the secrets of coding to youth. Photo: Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury
Aalto University project worker Vilma Hämäläinen teaches the secrets of coding to youth. Photo: Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury

In Ghana partners included top-notch innovation hub MEST and STEMbees organisation which promotes skills of girls in science, technology and mathematics.

The embassy has had a key role in preparing the project and together with local partners it has been responsible for the local practical arrangements.

The launch of the CodeBus tour in Ghana was also the start of Finland’s centenary celebrations in Ghana. The centenary jubilee year of Finland’s independence has received a lot of media attention in the country.

”This is an important year for Ghana as well because the country celebrates the 60th anniversary of its own independence. In addition, it is the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Finland and Ghana”, says Suomela-Chowdhury.

Youth learn coding in Ghana, Accra. Photo: Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury
Youth learn coding in Ghana, Accra. Photo: Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury

Finnish diplomatic or consular missions in Africa participate in the CodeBus project coordinated by Aalto University. The CodeBus is one of the projects of Finland 100 centenary celebration. The project seeks to support equal opportunities for youth to explore the world of technology. Participation of girls in particular is given special attention. A supportive and positive learning environment emphasises trying together and self-expression.

The one hundred day project which kicked off in Ghana stops in ten countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa and ends in South Africa reaching a total of 1,700 youth. Aalto University, eight Finnish diplomatic or consular missions in Africa, Mehackit, Nokia and Supercell participated in and supported the coding bus project.

Helena Kiiskinen

The author is a Communications Officer at Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

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