Earlier this year I had a chance to participate the CodeBus Africa –project’s (http://finland100africa.fi) trip in Namibia. To put a long story short, CodeBus Africa brought both Finnish and local instructors to ten different African country (Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Namibia, South-Africa and Mozambique) to host coding workshops in different locations for the children and the youth. The project was part of the Finland100 celebrations.
CodeBus project was not a developmental cooperation project. Although there might be some positive long-term effects, the project was not build with that on mind. As a part of Finland100 celebrations, a big part of the project’s goal was to raise positive awareness of Finland, and to promote our traditional strengths such as education and equality. However, I think that there are couple of lessons that the SYL developmental cooperation work could learn from that project.
The first lesson is the topicality. The project was designed the strengths of Finland in mind. The planning started with thinking what Finland would like to showcase for other countries. The coding workshops communicated about the technology and good education, which were something that Finland can be proud of. Similarly, extra attention was given to the fact that there were a lot of women among the both Finnish and local instructors. It was also made sure that the local girls would come to the workshop. The clear and even “buzzy” themes probably made corporate participation for the project easier.
SYL represents the higher education in Finland, which is considered very good in many countries. SYL is also likely one of the most efficient student democracy organizations in the world. Is this expertise something that SYL could share with the world?
Additionally, CodeBus Africa was planned in closed cooperation with the Finnish business world. Nokia was the project’s main corporate partner. Whether we like it or not, companies will have a larger role in the developmental cooperation in foreseeable future.
Of course, it is possible, that some companies want to participate projects just out of the good will, but I would not personally trust that too much. The actors on the developmental cooperation field should start thinking what they are offering for the businesses. Why would they like to participate the projects? The most typical offering is probably the good publicity, but it does not need to stop there. SYL is one of the leading hatcheries of future talent in Finland, and it works with similar organizations in different countries. Would the companies want to participate if they could work with SYL and its partners?
Overall, the CodeBus project seemed to go very well. It received positive attention in both Finland and in the host countries, and probably taught something new about the world for both the locals and the Finns. These kinds of projects could very well be more common in the future. SYL has a great potential to execute other similar projects in the future. With proper planning and preparations, SYL could actually become more prominent actor in the Finnish developmental cooperation field.
The writer is a member of the Development Cooperation Advisory Board of SYL (KENKKU).