Soliyana Gizaw Hunde, a ten year-old Ethiopian coder and winner of the 2020 inaugural AfriCANCode Challenge —with love of math and science and a strong community spirit inspired her to develop Mathstainment, a game to create awareness about Covid-19 and offer a simple fun and engaging way to practice mathematics.
AfriCANCode Challenge is a coding competition that aims at engaging participants through a number of fun and exciting activities. The competition is for children from the age of 8 to 16 that can use their skills and creativity to develop games using the Scratch coding language to reimagine school and education.
“Being part of the AfriCANCode Challenge has been fun, and winning the national and overall competition was very exciting. It has motivated me to do more and dream big,” says Soliyana, who lives in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia with her parents.
Three winners of this year’s competition were all girls who were announced in February this year —with Soliyana emerging as the overall winner for her educational game Mathstainment.
Mathstainment is built using the Scratch programming language and asks a series of Math questions which vary in difficulty levels, ranging from ‘Easy’ to ‘Difficult’, leads a character playing on the screen ever closer to personal protective equipment (PPE) for each correct answer. When a player answers more incorrect questions, they have to start all over again till they pass. The game on the other hand does create awareness about Covid-19 related health protocols.
After the pandemic forced the Ethiopian government to close schools, Soliyana decided to apply her coding skills she learnt from her cousin, a software engineering student at one of the local state universities in Ethiopia —in service of her community by participating in the AfriCANCode Challenge.
“When we started staying at home due to the pandemic, I heard how it was affecting people in our community and what we could do to protect ourselves and our loved ones. I decided to develop my Mathstainment game to create awareness about Covid-19 and also offer a simple and fun way to practice Math,” explains Soliyana.
Although Soliyana has a passion in coding, she says she wants to be an astronomer so she can get to know how the universe works. “I want to be an astronomer. I want to know how the universe works,” she said.
Alexandra van der Ploeg, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP, says Soliyana and her fellow participants of the 2020 AfriCANCode Challenge are inspirations to youth across Africa.
“The innovation and community-minded spirit displayed by this year’s participants point to a bright future for Africa’s citizens. It is also hugely encouraging to see the high ratio of female participants, whose ingenuity saw all three top place finishes claimed by girls.”
She points to progress over the past few years with expanding access to coding teaching and digital literacy opportunities for the continent’s youth.
“SAP Africa Code Week and the AfriCANCode Challenge mobilizes hundreds of partners in the public and private sector who rally around the urgent task of empowering Africa’s youth with essential digital skills. As we continue into an uncertain future, this investment into youth skills development will pay huge dividends over the coming years and decades,” explained Alexandra.
Much has been written about the importance of advancing digital literacy in Africa, especially among the youth. With more than half of the world’s under 25 years expected to live in Africa by 2050, mobilizing and inspiring this youthful population to be active participants of the global digital economy is central to the continent’s future.