After months of preparation, it is finally here. The bus is safely parked on the parking lot, and the secondary school students, most of them girls, are sitting at the computers, with a concentrated look on their faces and headphones on their ears. The trainers move about the classroom talking to the students and listening to the beats from the headphones.
"This is just like from a Nigerian movie", one of the trainers laughs after listening to the beat created by a student.
Young computer coders from Aalto University climbed on board the Code Bus Africa in Helsinki, Finland, in February 2017, and just after Easter, their journey finally brought them to Zambia. Ronja, Sini and Valter from Finland, together with the local coders Debra, Linda, Joshua and Nancy from the local partner organization Hackers Guild, held a Sonic Pi coding workshop in three Zambian secondary schools in Ndola, Livingstone and Lusaka. Using the Sonic Pi coding program, the students in the workshops coded their own little piece of music – and the beats were amazing!
CodeBus Africa makes Finland’s 100 years of independence seen and heard in 10 African countries within the 100 days the bus is on the road. CodeBus Africa is about getting youth, especially young women, excited about the possibilities of technology and IT and seeing the possibilities it has for their future. The Zambian workshops were successful, as had been all the workshops in the six countries the bus has driven through before Zambia.
But in Zambia, there was also something special happening. On Thursday 20th April, in total seven artists were on stage in the free, open-to-all CodeBus Africa Concert organized in Lusaka. The concert featured popular Zambian artists Cactus, Wezi and John Chiti, as well as Biniyam and Paleface from Finland, who flew to Zambia with their DJs Jarkko and Hermanni just for this concert! At the last minute, Papa Zai and Nasty D, both with Finnish connections, came on board to complete a dynamic set of very talented musicians.
In the early evening hours, some secondary school students from the Lusaka workshop arrived for the outdoor concert, which took place at Manhattan. The students were on their feet dancing and thoroughly enjoying their interactive with all the artists. We got to hear Paleface actually sing in Bemba and some beats the kids had produced mixed into the music. The Binyami made everybody dance like crazy and it’s difficult to know who got the most screams, John Chiti, Wezi or Cactus! It was an amazing evening, with the artists even playing a song coded by the students in the workshops. Many thanks to all the musicians for their hard work and excellent performance!
A big thank you to our main sponsor Mint of Finland for covering the costs for the students’ transport and meals, as well as the artists' meals at the concert. Many thanks also to MTN Zambia and Protea Hotels Marriott in Zambia for providing Wi-Fi and accommodation respectively during the Zambian leg of CodeBus Africa.
Although the bus has moved on to other countries in Southern Africa, the journey continues in Zambia. The Embassy of Finland in Lusaka will, in cooperation with Hackers Guild, continue to support Zambian youth to explore employment possibilities offered by the technology and software industry.
Hackers Guild is a Zambian technology organization aiming to develop the Zambian software industry, and the implementer of a project called Project Ada, during which secondary school students are encouraged to learn the basics of computer coding in Coding Clubs, Hackathons and coding bootcamps. The project is not only about attaining coding skills but also about learning entrepreneurial skills and being innovative.
In accordance with the priorities of Finnish development policy, 60% of the participants of the projects are women. Project Ada is funded by the Fund for Local Cooperation of the Embassy of Finland in Lusaka, and will continue until January 2018.