Refugee camp AppFactory grooming software developers

November 2017: An AppFactory established at Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa by Microsoft Corporation, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is developing information, communication and technology (ICT) skills in the refugees, enabling them to become software developers.

The AppFactory was set up in June this year under Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative which aims at equipping young software developers with hands-on experience while helping them build critical business skills to secure jobs or create their own businesses. The AppFactory at Dzaleka is the first of its kind in the world to be set up in a refugee camp.

Microsoft Director of Strategic Partnership Kate Krukiel said the AppFactory will also help motivate refugees and host communities to develop software systems that will support critical development areas such as education and health.

“The refugees have a lot of ideas and passion. With this AppFactory, they will learn business processes and models, how to code, and everything from education processes to safety and security. With connectivity, safety and security mechanisms at this camp and surrounding areas will go improve. They will also learn how to do smart farming,” Krukiel said.

Malawi’s Information and Communications Technology Minister Nicholas Dausi said, apart from providing high speed internet connectivity at the camp, the project will also facilitate ICT initiatives in trade and communication.

Grace Kapinga, 20, from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is one of the 31 refugees and asylum seekers already benefiting from the Microsoft AppFactory at the camp which has about 30,000 people mainly from the DRC, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda and Somalia.

“I strongly believe that the knowledge and concepts about software programming and development I am learning here will go a long way in shaping my future in the information technology sector,” said Grace.

Grace’s views were echoed by another 20-year-old Noah Ndahirwa from Rwanda, who said the AppFactory has reignited his vision of becoming an ICT expert which faded when he fled his country to seek refuge in Malawi.

“For instance, me and some of my friends in this class are in the course of developing a software which will be used to digitalise operations of the Dzaleka Camp Clinic which is still working manually in this digital age. These are some of the reasons we thank Microsoft and UNHCR for their partnership to set this Connectivity for Refugees Project here at Dzaleka,” Ndahirwa said.

Earlier this year, Microsoft, in partnership with UNHCR, also donated 1,000 smartphones for distribution to the refugees at the camp to improve their connectivity.