Conference sneak preview / Field Stories

Bit by bit ICT schools alleviate youth unemployment

KampaBits. Image: Facebook

KampaBits. Image: Facebook

Youth unemployment in Africa is an issue that affects the continent as a whole. While some countries are indeed faring better than others by comparison, it’s still a widespread issue.

KampaBits Digital Design School in Kampala, Uganda, is an organisation that is working to find solutions to this problem – solutions that can be emulated by other countries. They provide ICT training to the country’s vulnerable youth, largely from informal settlements, with the aim to improve their quality of life and job prospects.

By Kwesi Brako

“Before they join KampaBits training, the targeted youth are living from hand to mouth without dignity. The empowerment with a blend of skills takes the young people to another level because they are able to generate income by providing needed skills to the people who demand them,” says Alex Okwaput, Programme Coordinator at KampaBits.

Indeed, the demand for ICTs in Africa is surging continually and, according to experts, is contributing to Africa’s rapid growth. It makes sense to train unemployed, vulnerable young people in an industry that is thriving.

The school’s curriculum is based on creativity focusing on “marketable applications” such as web-design and development. Students are also offered entrepreneurship training to give them self-reliance skills in business planning and management, as well as hands-on experience through internships. All work assignments are also available online, allowing for students to work remotely.

When asked about the sustainability of the project, given Uganda has the world’s youngest population with over 78% below the age of 30, Okwaput seemed optimistic.

“The fact that Uganda’s youth demographics by default mean that there is a high rate of unemployed youth cannot be gainsaid. The youth unemployment numbers in Uganda is likely to grow. There is, however, a ray of hope. The KampaBits training is scalable in Uganda (with good planning and advocacy) for a number of reasons. KampaBits started with 20 youth during the pilot phase, we currently have a cohort of 80 youth. It is unique in that it is practical and can be implemented within a span of one year. This means that it can reach many youth across Uganda in the shortest time. If more young people access KampaBits’ training, there is a possibility of a critical mass of talented youth living in dignity, and creating multiplier effect in their societies. This to some extent will work towards reducing the effects of the youth unemployment bulge.”

KampaBits is a member of the Bits family, which dates back to 1999 with the start of NairoBits. Since then a number of other Bits schools have been co-created: AddisBits, Ethiopia (2008); ZanziBits, Tanzania (2008); KampaBits and AruaBits (2010 and 2013); IndusBits, Pakistan (2014); and the latest TamaBits, Ghana, which was launched in 2015.

Together the Bits schools have trained over 6,500 young people since inception. Out of the trained youth, over 80% are now employed. According to a recent evaluation, KampaBits has already passed its target of 75% trained youth being employed. Bits alumni have performed at TEDX events and are involved in co-creation of other projects.

KampaBits is ensuring this model remains sustainable by constantly expanding the skillsets that are provided in their training programmes.

“The fast-changing local and global environment requires that an organisation constantly scans its surroundings in order to respond to the demands of customers. KampaBits constantly consults alumni and partners to provide advice on trending skillsets so as to be in tandem with the demands of its clients. The skillsets are therefore changing. Before, KampaBits concentrated on providing basics in graphics, web design and development. We have since introduced motion graphics and may offer 3D animation and photo manipulation,” Okwaput says.

At eLearning Africa, Okwaput will be discussing training methods and the possibility of replication considering the success of the Bits school network. He will also introduce audiences to the KampaBits Design Agency (KDA) pilot, which aims to tap into KampaBits’ talented alumni as means of seizing opportunities in the fast growing IT industry.

KampaBits success stories

  • Rashid Kawunde went from looking after his HIV-positive father at a small carpentry workshop, to running an internship centre near Uganda’s prestigious Makerere University in Kampala. He offers internships to university students who would like to sharpen their IT skills. He takes on real client projects (web design and development, graphics, computer maintenance) and guides the interns to provide solutions.
  • Best Ayiorwoth joined KampaBits at the age of 17 after her education was rudely interrupted. She now runs GIPOMO, an organisation that lends money to women to help their families, which can be paid back with little interest. GIPOMO has already aided 400 families.
  • Solomom Kitumba benefited from KampaBits training in 2013. He was initially employed by Mountbatten Ltd, an IT solution company, but then went on to start his own business. He was first training people on how to use an OSS called Drupal, and recently launched his own branding company.
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3 Comments

  1. This is fantastic news and I’m glad they are provideding good training opportunities for local people.
    Itz important to me that this fast aging group of people are able to offer skills that make them employable to businesses.
    I too am taking courses to go from having had a lot of technical training to having more certification for higher work roles. It has been frustrating to see less qualified people in management trying to tell me what to do with no experience in technical training.
    ‘Opinions with nonsense’ that and the older generation who feel they want modernisation but so long as they don’t have to change anything (spending money to upgrade or training), I’ve seen this in western and eastern Africa now so I presume its an ongoing struggle for other nations too.
    I keep applying for funds to bring digital lectures and learning resources to students but always, having practical exposure is critical to building workable skills. great post!

  2. The xBits projects is one of the most effective platforms created to empower out of school youth and it’s unfortunate to see Addis Bits come to an end after such glorious years :(

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