CoderDojo taking off in Madagascar

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The global CoderDojo initiative, which is present in more than 50 countries across the world, has taken off in Madagascar since it was first launched in September.

CoderDojo is a global network of volunteer-led, independent, community based programming clubs for people between the ages of seven and 17, who through the initiative learn to code and develop websites, apps, programmes and games.

The first Dojo was launched in Cork, Ireland in June 2011, and the movement has since grown to include over 500 verified Dojos globally, with Kenya and Nigeria the first two African countries to buy into the initiative.

Madagascar became the third African country to form a Dojo in September, in the capital Antananarivo. A second was shortly after launched in Toamasina, and a third is on the verge of opening in Fianarantsoa.

“With enough support we believe that we can run the programme freely for the kids in every city of Madagascar,” Andriankoto Ratozamanana, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) at the Habaka innovation hub, told Disrupt Africa.

Habaka, founded in 2011 and registered as a non-profit in April 2013, is behind the launch of the Dojos in Madagascar, and Ratozamanana said the reason the hub was working so hard on rolling out as many as possible in such a short period of time was the shortage of coders in Madagascar.

“The country is also facing a shortage of qualified developers because the computer schools and universities produce less than 200 coders per year and most of them are hired internationally,” he said.

“At our hub in Antananarivo we can see the demands of a high-tech economy and its interest in investing in African startups on daily basis. We do not want to be left behind and the CoderDojo model is the cheapest way we have found to solve that problem.”

The Antananarivo Dojo has so far assisted 30 young people, with seven mentors, but Ratozamanana said sustainability was key.

“Sustainability is the main issue for a Dojo in Africa because we are not charging the kids and the mentors are volunteers, but still we have some running costs and are about to consider to loaning computers or finding sponsors for next year to keep the programme running,” he said.

“Our goal is to join the international Learn to Code movement. We hope that this journey we have started in Madagascar can inspire partners from government and non-profit organisations who believe in the power of tech to empower our economy to join forces by helping us implement this programme all over the country.”

Disrupt Africa reported last week on a similar initiative in Cape Town, South Africa, where codeX, a venture put together by co-founders Elizabeth Gould, Michael Jordaan and Daniel Weber, is also bidding to tackle the chronic lack of trained developers in Africa through its apprenticeship-style coding courses.

Gould told Disrupt Africa codeX was born from the knowledge Africa is facing a severe shortage when it comes to developers.

“We all had the same idea, which was there is no enough coders, let’s use this as a tool to bring people into the tech industry,” she said. “There’s a billion people getting online, and who is going to build the tech Africa needs? It has got to be Africans.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent’s most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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