Daba Thom Manuel Kpakol is a Social entrepreneur, a leadership consultant and development expert. She is the CEO of Codeworld Innovations, an Edtech start up that provides coding and digital literacy skills to children across Africa. She is also the founder of Sida Africa, an NGO focused on equipping young African women and girls with digital skills and global competencies for success in the age of Tech. For over 6 years, Codeworld has been bringing innovative digital literacy to children across the country. She founded Codeworld to help demystify digital tech to Nigerian children in an early and powerful introduction to raise the next generation of tech leaders out of Africa.
Let’s learn more about this amazing woman and her mission via Codeworld.
I know you are a lawyer tell us about your career journey and what led you to starting Codeworld
I started my career out as a lawyer working at the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Corporate Affairs Commission. However, development was always a passion for me and I had the opportunity to volunteer for a number of non-profit programmes and was a part of several empowerment programmes of the government including pioneering Nigeria’s first conditional cash transfer programme in 2007.
However, Technology has always held a huge fascination for me despite not having an ICT background. So I decided to start Codeworld in 2016 to equip Nigerian and African kids and teens with the skills needed to be successful in the age of technology. Why? Well because Coding helps children demystify technology making it likely for them to pursue tech careers later in life. While everyone is not going to become a tech guru, everyone serious about being successful in today’s age must learn quickly how to integrate tech into everything they do.
What makes the programmes at Codeworld so special?
From the age of 7 children start learning things like game development, mobile app creation, coding, robotics and artificial intelligence. They also learn some of the key global skills for the age of tech including things like effectively communicating an idea, teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving. Codeworld gives children an early and healthy connection with tech that takes them away from just being consumers of technology created by others to becoming creators of technology themselves. It is one of the most empowering feelings to see African children having access to the same tech skills as their peers in more developed parts of the world.
We see what we do as strategically positioning of our kids to engage the jobs of the future. The digital economy truly holds a lot of hope for Africa and the sooner we start equipping our kids for the jobs of tomorrow the better for all.
Now setting up such a venture must have it’s challenges what kind of support did you receive especially in the setting up process?
My husband has been my greatest support. Setting a high bar on the quality of learning at Codeworld means you have to be constantly up to speed with digital trends and tech education. His encouragement has enabled me navigate a path that I was not formally trained for. Most of my brainstorming sessions are done with him. My parents have also been a great source of encouragement. They set a high bar for me very early in life and made me believe there’s absolutely nothing I cannot conquer.
Amazing! now let’s backtrack and talk about some of the challenges you may have encountered.
One of the major challenges I face is seeing the number of children who are really interested in learning how to code but whose parents are unable to afford the cost of signing up for our programmes. As a social business, it is important to us that our programmes are as affordable as possible. Our summer camps for example cost an average of N80, 000 –N100, 000 for 2 weeks. Similar programmes in the US administering the same curriculum with sometimes less of the engagement cost between $700 to 1,200 that’s between N315, 00 to N540, 000 per child per week! So delivering quality tutoring at that price has been challenging but we have been able to do it!
Another thing we have done to ensure more children have access to these lessons is to partner with well meaning public and private organisations as well as private individuals who provide scholarships. Girls Code Africa programme was launched last year and we are partnering with stakeholders to provide scholarship for girls from less privileged backgrounds to attend Codeworld’s camps. Last year the Nigeria Communication Commission sponsored girls across the 6 geo-political zones at the launch of our programme. This was really significant for us and this year, we are looking forward to receiving more support.
Another challenge for us has been in the area of finding the right instructors who understand the culture and the vision of Codeworld. At the heart of what we do is coordinating effective team. Our Instructors are a very fundamental part of our success. While its easy to get an experienced tech professionals, getting the best tech professionals who are good with kids and with the culture here at Codeworld is certainly more challenging. Over the years we have been able to build a very strong core team and that helps quite a bit.
Well done! You must be very proud of what Codeworld has been able to achieve
Yes ! My team and I are a very critical part of something huge. We are preparing future ready children across Africa and the diaspora, Inspiring the next generation of tech leaders from out of Africa. This is a game changer for us as Africa looks to reverse its development challenges. There may be other solutions to Africa’s underdevelopment but right now, I don’t see anything that will have the level of impact that the field of technology will have in reversing them. That is why I commend the Ministry of ICT and Digital Economy as they are on the right path in calling attention to making more investments in the field of technology.
Last month, I had one of the pioneer girls in our code camps stop by for a visit at our office. Lera joined Codeworld at the age of 10 and today at 16 she is a python coding guru and aspiring to become a robotic surgeon. She says all this would not have been possible without the early exposure she got. Now tell me, what could be cooler than that?
Awesome! Do you have any upcoming programmes ?
This Easter holiday from the 6th to the 17th of April , we will be hosting our annual Easter of Code and Tech camps with the theme “Make Wonder”. We will be leading children on this exciting journey of creating powerful software applications . Children will join their instructors in coming up with digital solutions to address 21st century business and social challenges.
We will be hosting both physical and online camps which means children can join there peers from Countries all over the world. Physical camps will put in place Covid safety protocols and will hold in at least 4 locations in the city of Abuja including Asokoro, Lokogoma, Life camp and Wuse 2. It promises to be fun.
Now we know all Codeworld and no rest makes Daba an exhausted girl, how do you relax and have family time?
In the pre- Covid world relaxation for us as a family consisted of sampling restaurants and out door eating. Today I relax more by going on walks with my daughter and trying new recipes on weekends. I also relax by enjoying a good novel.
Thanks for sharing your impactful word at Codeworld and all the best!