The programme aims to prepare at least 2,000 girls between the ages of 17 and 25 for careers as computer programmers, creators, and designers.


The African Girls Can Code Initiative (AGCCI), launched in 2018 by UN Women and the African Union Commission (AUC) in partnership with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), aims to empower girls throughout Africa by putting them on the path to tech careers and helping them develop their digital literacy and computer skills.

Chantal Niyonkuru grew up in a rural Rwandan village without access to digital technology, but when she was selected to attend one of the country’s top high schools, she took to computer science.

After passing her exams, she told her mother she wanted to pursue a career in programming, but her mother laughed and said it was for students from the cities, rich families, or boys. Chantal’s story is shared by girls across Africa and around the world.

A lack of exposure to tech coupled with strong gendered norms keep girls out of the field from an early age, and the absence of visible female role models further contributes to their under-representation. Even for girls who do have exposure to technology, their interest is often dampened by a lack of gender-responsive and interdisciplinary curricula.

Sizolwethu Maphanga, a high school student in Eswatini, experienced this firsthand when her high school offered classes on information and communication technologies, but the course failed to connect technology to the real-world challenges facing her community and country.

Sizolwethu’s experience at an African Girls Can Code Initiative coding camp was the catalyst for everything to change for her (AGCCI). She claims that the camp fueled her passion for technology and “opened my eyes to the revolutionary technologies that can affect Africa. I discovered that if I have passion and tenacity, even with little to no resources, I can make a significant difference.”

Chantal also experienced a turning point at the AGCCI coding camp. Despite the opposition she was facing, she credits the initiative with inspiring her to pursue a degree in information technology at the university level.

AGCCI has helped some girls pursue long-standing passions while giving other girls their first substantial exposure to technology. Mariam Said Muhammed says she had no prior knowledge of digital technology, much less its potential societal applications, before enrolling in a coding camp in 2019. The bootcamp “inspired me in the world of technology and made me develop an interest in learning skills so that I could use them to solve the problems that face our society,” the participant claims.

The programme aims to prepare at least 2,000 girls between the ages of 17 and 25 for careers as computer programmers, creators, and designers.

Its first phase has also included the creation of a guide on mainstreaming ICT, gender, and coding in national curricula across the continent, the launch of an eLearning platform, and the creation of a webinar series to keep learning going during the pandemic, in addition to camps like the ones Sizolwethu, Chantal, and Mariam attended.

African Girls Can Code Initiative works to improve girls’ overall inclusion in the tech industry as well as to educate and empower them.

Awa Ndiaye-Seck, UN Women Special Representative to the African Union and UNECA, states that the organization’s goal is to address both the gender-based harmful norms and practises that prevent women and girls from pursuing STEM fields as well as the policy-level bottlenecks related to access to technology and finances.

Sizolwethu was motivated to support the empowerment of other girls while pursuing her own tech career: “I have also been actively involved in numerous policy discussions and panels for the United Nations and various other bodies to enable more girls around the world to be exposed to and enrolled in STEM studies and professions,” she says.

“I became more interested in learning about new technologies and how they work, and this became a core motivating factor for me to pursue my degree in Computer Science,” says Mariam of how AGCCI sparked a passion that has grown into a career path.

Chantal, on the other hand, is making use of the abilities she acquired to create software that benefits her neighbourhood, including a digital system for scheduling medical appointments, a bus reservation system, and more. She says, “I can say with pride that AGCCI is the reason behind who I am today.