Where the development of Africa is concerned, we are inspired by what late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah declared:
African development does not depend on our endless hopes from the East or West. Any society that cares about its future, must invest in its youth. A key strategic area that Africa needs to invest on is Education, especially by providing the youth with accessible quality education. Once we achieve this, the African youth, whose role is key, will be empowered enough to provide their input and contribute to the development of Africa. Armed with our passion to empower the African student diaspora, we launched the Knowledge Sharing Campaign (KSC). In this article, we share a few success stories, even as we work on KSC’s expansion strategy.
What is KSC?
The Knowledge Sharing Campaign is a community platform that brings together two groups of people: the Know & Can Teach (those who have experience and can share their knowledge) group and the Don’t Know & Can Learn (those who are eager to learn, but lack opportunities) group. KSC originated from a simple idea, which turned out to be its slogan: 'Bring, Share & Learn'.
The energy behind KSC is driven by a remembrance of our roots, awareness of our current privileges, and acknowledging how sharing stories of our personal journey can inspire more people, especially the African youth. KSC is based on two key principles which was derived from the following quotes.
- “In Africa, when an old man dies, it’s a library burning" – Amadou Hampâté Bâ
- “The best way to value our knowledge is to share it and appreciate feedback” - Charles Kimpolo
In partnership with African Students Associations (ASA) and other aligned international organisations, KSC helps the African students diaspora through the following:
- Build strong and more organised ASAs
- Promote excellence in education through technology
- Provide internship opportunities to African students
- Create a safe platform for knowledge sharing, debates and exchange of ideas around key social and economic topics
- Develop mechanisms that motivate bright minded African students to return to their home countries and contribute in the development of their societies
There are no specific prerequisites to participate in these sessions. In fact, only a few students who attend these sessions have their own laptops. KSC is not just about tech sessions, but about knowledge sharing. Students who come have very limited exposure to key technologies. They first attend the KSC introductory sessions, which focus on assessing and improving the participant's computer literacy. For example, students who study in a non computer science program, create accounts for a list of free online applications and services, like GitHub. Not all students are able to efficiently use technologies like Google Apps that allow them to work as a team on a single report. KSC becomes a bridge that helps students embrace a very large online world, with skills needed to access this.
KSC's Mainstream Program
KSC participants are skilled in software development and are motivated to embrace technology at large. Students are encouraged to use their learnings to come up with innovative ideas to propose solutions to African problems. This is useful for the development of their communities when they return home. KSC’s mainstream program includes hands-on training workshops, a four-week internship program, entrepreneurship and leadership development seminars, and roundtable discussions.
- Internship Program
The African student diaspora faces challenges to get internship opportunities. KSC's key objectives have been shaped in a way that ensure we are able to respond to students’ specific challenges as we learn from their backgrounds and skills prior to starting the program. The program focuses on developing skills using Agile Practices, learning to use open source technologies and building awareness for social and economic issues. Communication and presentation skills are developed using the Pecha Kucha framework.
Based on a student’s specific background, skills and interests, everyone chooses and plays one of the Agile roles - Business Analyst (BA), Developer, Quality Analyst (QA) and UI/UX. For example, a student who is studying for a Computer Applications program and does not have previous experience in software development, is encouraged and supported to play a Developer role. A student who studying in a Business Administration program and who chooses to play a BA role, will be skilled in the basic level of requirements gathering and analysis.
At the end of each internship program, every KSC intern starts on her or his own journey, armed with their new skills. Each of them now has a series of new accounts for online applications, including Trello, GitHub, Fuze, Stack, which helps them continue to work as a team. More importantly, it helps them contribute to online content, to which traditionally African contribution has been very limited. KSC’s Github open source repository is a great example.
- Hands-on Training Workshops
KSC Hyderabad’s experience will be replicated across other cities in India where we have ThoughtWorks offices, as there are many African students here who face almost similar challenges where education is concerned.
The first KSC workshop in Bangalore had the theme - Learning the Basics of Entrepreneurship. The main goal was to teach potential entrepreneurs, basic entrepreneurship skills and get them to apply these to their business ideas. Among other entrepreneurship skills, students also learned to find product or business ideas, define their offering, differentiate their business, identify their target market, get their first customers and start fundraising.
What was heartening was that from the 25 people we expected, 72% attended, out of which 50% were females. It was an engaging experience for both trainers and students. Here is a short video of one of the sessions.
Although this first workshop targeted MBA students, any participant who came with a different background and who did not have an idea on how to start a business, walked away with an understanding of the Business Model Canvas (BMC) framework. With this template, students are now able to frame their innovative ideas and turn them into a business. Senior ThoughtWorkers Nagarjun Kandukuru and Charles Kimpolo shared their experiences of the workshop in this video.
KSC Participants' Feedback
Most students did not have earlier exposure to technologies that they learned during KSC sessions.
- “Through KSC, my life has changed in a sense that now I'm awake and I am ready to fight.”
- “Many of my fears of the real tech world were eliminated, it opened my eyes to the beauty of software development.”
In a few months, KSC has engaged and positively touched the lives of hundreds of young African students covering over 50% of African countries, out of which 40% were women. This is just the start - we hope that these numbers can quickly scale. We wish to replicate this experiment in other parts of the world where we know there are many African students with similar, if not tougher, challenges.