Complex Made Simple

1,000 refugees learn coding to support Middle East economy

The Refugee Code Week program will run from October 15 to 23, and will include hundreds of free coding workshops and online training for refugees between the ages of eight and 24

More than 1,000 refugees residing in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey will be receiving coding training for one week, as a newly launched initiative aims to support them so they can become active contributors to these countries’ economies.


According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), refugees can increase countries’ GDP by one per cent over the span of five years.


Global technology company SAP and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched the initiative at the recent Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul earlier this year. It is held in collaboration with a number of partners, including local governments, non-profit organisations, NGOs, educational institutions and private businesses.


The initiative comes as a response to numerous calls from the UNHCR for the private sector to help support countries hosting refugees who have fled their conflict-stricken home countries. Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are now home to almost five million refugees.


This is reportedly the worst refugee crisis since the 1940s and this initiative aims to play a role in including refugees in the development of economies in which they now live.


“Refugee Code Week is a practical example of the role of corporations in impacting the lives of refugees. The global ICT skills will enormous career opportunities for young refugees. It will be an added value for the refugees themselves and their host communities,” Houssam Chahin, UNHCR’s Senior Private Sector Partnerships Officer in MENA, said in a statement.


The Refugee Code Week program will run from October 15 to 23, and will include hundreds of free coding workshops and online training for refugees between the ages of eight and 24.


In the workshops, participants will acquire new skills using Scratch, a simplified coding platform. Older participants can also learn how to build websites with HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP and SQL, and will be introduced to SAP Business One, the firm’s business enterprise software.


Participants also have the opportunity to move further into a potential 15-week coding “boot camp”, which – if confirmed – they would graduate as qualified computer engineers ready to be hired.


“By empowering everyone in the community – parents, teachers, volunteers, children, universities, schools and nonprofits – Refugee Code Week is a unique leverage to put IT education at the heart of education programs for refugees. Equipping thousands of young refugees with highly job-relevant skills will open many doors in their life, beyond that of self-sufficiency,” Chahin added.


SAP is currently training teachers to code and is launching an openSAP platform for the online courses.


“By training young people in high-demand coding skills, Refugee Code Week will provide refugee families with hope for a better future, while creating a pipeline of talent Middle East companies seeking talented employees. Refugees have the determination and skills to support the region’s digital economy competitiveness,” Alicia Lenze, head of Global Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP, said in a statement.


SAP and UNHCR have already conducted an Africa Code Week 2015, which trained 89,000 young individuals and thousands of teachers in 17 countries over the period of ten days.