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In Nigeria, AfricaPlan Foundation Is Helping Young People Achieve Their Tech Dreams

At the closeout event in 2024


In Nigeria, AfricaPlan Foundation Is Helping Young People Achieve Their Tech Dreams

Our program is very portable and repeatable and we intend to spread fast so long as the outcome is attained

Upon graduation from the Abia State University, Uturu in 2018, Amarachi Iheakam started job-hunting on different platforms including fiverr, Upwork, Linkedin and Indeed, but she was unsuccessful.

The last child in a family of five, Iheakam studied Microbiology.  Her focus was on medical microbiology and so, she searched for jobs in hospitals and laboratories but that too did not work.

Iheakam’s experience at the time was (is) a reflection of the reality facing young people in Nigeria where Universities and Polytechnics produce 600,000 graduates, most of whom are without jobs. The current youth unemployment rate stands at 8.6% according to National Bureau of Statistics data. Graduate unemployment stood at 6.722% in 2022, according to World Bank data.

While she waited, Iheakam enrolled into different courses on software engineering, frontend development, python, data analysis, product design and AI career essentials.

“I got the certifications, I did not want to stay idle,”she said. “I was checking for internships and voluntary jobs,”.

In 2023, a friend told her about Africaplan Foundation, a US-based non-profit providing life-shaping opportunities to underprivileged/underserved young Nigerians in technology careers and entrepreneurship. He had graduated from the maiden edition of the foundation’s HackathonAfrica Bootcamp.

During a class

The HackathonAfrica Bootcamp

HackathonAfrica is a fully-funded residential Bootcamp training program launched by the foundation in 2022. It provides a dynamic 3-month immersive training experience tailored to turn University graduates in the Southeast into Web Developers.

“Through a comprehensive curriculum and very immersive hands-on learning approach, participants are equipped with the essential skills and knowledge necessary to excel in today’s fast-paced technology landscape,” said founder of the Foundation, Mr Oni Chukwu.

Secretary of the Board of Directors, Africaplan Foundation, Priscilla Iroaganachi said that the candidates come out of the 3-month classroom training ready for an immediate follow-on 3-month internship in industry, and then employment in the field. She adds that it is expected that over time, some of these candidates may go on to entrepreneurial pursuits in the technology field.

The programme is entirely sponsored by the foundation, including accommodation, meals, technical facilitation and instructions. Students are also paid a stipend for their miscellaneous expenses.

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The idea, according to Chukwu, is to ensure that students are not distracted during the program as the foundation believes that technology careers and entrepreneurship are some of the greatest levellers of opportunities for everyone willing to work hard and push.

The inaugural HackathonAfrica bootcamp attracted massive interest from youths across the region with over 300 applications received, out of which 20 graduates were shortlisted to join the first cohort, which included ten males and ten females, with a focus on Fullstack Web Development.

Chukwuebuka Anumudu, a graduate from the cohort, currently works as a Frontend Developer at Atlanta-based software development company, ChiefSoft works. He also mentors some persons in Frontend development. He graduated from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri where he studied Computer science in 2017 and heard about the program from a friend in 2022.

Students working on a task

Getting in

Iheakam followed the foundation on all social media platforms and when it was time to register for the second cohort, she did. Subsequently, she got an email informing her that she had progressed to the next stage-the test stage in July.

“I took the test and got an email after sometime informing me I had progressed to the next stage which was a virtual interview with some members of the foundation’s board and executive team, “she said.

After the first interview, she received an email congratulating her for getting into the second cohort of the programme. A whatsapp group was created for those who had sailed through and by February, 2024, classes commenced.

For the second edition, the foundation partnered Hordanso, a technology company that specialises in software development for mobile and web platforms to give the participants hands-on training in Generative AI and how it can be used to solve problems.

“Apart from AI, we learnt several soft skills during the program like presentation skills, communication, people management, business thinking and entrepreneurship, “she said. “We were taught html, CSS, JavaScript, react, typescript, python, fastapi, DevOps, git and GitHub,”.

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According to her, the learning process was friendly yet tough and intense. She adds that it helped her build connections and widen her network. For her final project, she and other group members designed Craftconnect- a platform that helps artisans reach out to previous and new customers and also helps the customers get artisans to render services they need.

Amarachi currently interns with Hordanso, a Texas-based technology company specializing in software development for mobile & web platforms. The company was one of the partners for the 2023 edition which focused on harnessing the power of generative AI.

Other students during a class

Giving back

The formation of Africaplan Foundation derives directly from Chukwu’s own personal experience and a passion to give back to the society, where he comes from. Upon graduating from the University in Nigeria, he went to the US in 1989 to complete his Master of Business Administration (MBA).

“Those were the early days of technology and the advent of the personal computer and later on the internet,”he said.

While in the US, he recognized the power of a career in technology for significant personal and professional growth and pivoted right after his MBA into a career in technology and entrepreneurship.

“I have not looked back since then and I made a promise then that if it worked out for me, I would endeavor to give the same opportunity back to others who lack the access like I did when I finished college in Nigeria,”.

He said that the Foundation’s mission is to drive meaningful, measurable impact and bring meaningful relief to the dearth of opportunities for bright, young college graduates who are Nigeria’s future.

Running HackathonAfrica has not come without drawbacks, including the usual suspects like inconsistent power supply, internet availability, lack of a permanent, well-equipped classrooms with all the proper amenities to foster uninterrupted learning.

But Chukwu says the foundation- which is completely self-funded, has worked to limit the myriad of attendant challenges by providing full accommodations, conducive classrooms, other basic infrastructure and daily meals to limit the distractions for the students through the duration of the program.

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Students during the opening event for the second cohort

Successes and plans

Since inception, the foundation has graduated 2 cohorts of a total of 40 young Nigerians, all of whom have gone through internship. Many of them are currently employed, especially by the same firms where they did their internships.

“Our aim is to continue to have 100% successful graduation, 100% internship placement and importantly, 100% job placement because these are early days, “he said. “We have a very long-term view here and we continue to strive for those goals,”.

Currently, the programme focuses on young people in the Southeast. But Chukwu says the foundation plans to extend HackathonAfrica to other parts of Nigeria as the challenges of lack of opportunity and hope for youth is pervasive and certainly present in every corner of the country.

“Our program is very portable and repeatable and we intend to spread fast so long as the outcome is attained,” he said. “But I had to begin in the Southeast where I grew up as my way of giving back to society,”.

Over the next few years, the foundation plans to increase the numbers per cohort and also add one or two more instances per year.  Chukwu said that the plan is to also look for partners- technology/facilitators and firms- in Nigeria and globally to join forces with Africaplan and expand its outreach and impact.

In the spirit of giving back to the community, Iheakam says she hopes to leverage technology to improve healthcare outcomes by working with healthtech companies or non-profit organizations that focus on healthcare accessibility, medical research, or disease prevention.

“My goal is to develop innovative solutions that bridge the healthcare gap in underserved communities, and mentor young individuals from underrepresented groups to pursue careers in tech,”she said.

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