London-based software engineer Zaira Rasool has stepped up her mission to fund digital education in The Gambia after being awarded a £5,000 grant by cross-border digital payments service, WorldRemit. The Catherine Wines bursary was created in memory of the late co-founder of the fintech company.
Over half (56%) of The Gambia’s population is under 25 years of age1, with limited access to a fixed broadband connection and the impact of COVID-19, young people face significant challenges to their employment and educational ambitions.
With this in mind, Zaira launched Coderoots in partnership with Odiri Ighamre, Co-Founder & CEO of Kori Youth Charity (UK) and Co-Founder & Director of Daughters of Africa NGO (Gambia). Coderoots is dedicated to creating sustainable solutions to digital access and tech education for young talent in Africa.
Coderoots mentors NGOs to set up digital education spaces, focussing on regions with the least access to basic technology. The initial pilot programme is Abuko Digital Hub in The Gambia, which provides a space for young people to use computers, as well as virtual mentoring provided by experts from all over the world.
Along with plenty of international travel under her belt, Zaira has 10 years’ experience working within grassroots organisations. Coderoots was formed after she ran a series of workshops in Gambia to train micro-businesses in Enterprise and met highly-motivated people. Having launched the initial crowdfunder in February 2020 and raising £4,000, Coderoots has gone from strength to strength ever since.
The project would not function without the leadership of Odiri Ighamre, who oversees the Gambia-based NGOs activities and has over 30 years’ of experience in the third-sector. So far, the initiative has run nine courses in accounting, law, art and design, coding, drama, architecture and more. Additionally, the partnership has completed 45 mentoring sessions in architecture, teacher training, media, marketing and more. The duo’s initiative has also established partnerships with the University of West England and Coding Black Females.
Zaira Rasool, software engineer at WorldRemit and founder of Coderoots, commented: “Coderoots is a team of experts from across the technology sector that have a vision to create opportunities and develop technology in the places that have least access to basic technology.
“What I found when I visited The Gambia is that there is a population of people that are really motivated and really driven to learn, but just don’t have the resources. Currently, initiatives that try to resolve the growing global tech divide are often short term, and mainly invest where some infrastructure already exists. Our vision is to create long term change by working from the grassroots – creating community-driven hubs in these areas, which find financial stability over time by supporting young people and helping them start their own business or find employment.
“We welcome any partnerships that can join us to grow this vision, so thank you WorldRemit for being the first one!”
Arnaud Loiseau, CEO (International) at WorldRemit, said: “Zaira’s ambitions for Coderoots are clearly aligned with those of WorldRemit, as she spoke passionately about ‘closing the gap’ in a country where opportunities to access technology and education are not so readily available. We’re delighted to be able to support the initiative through our Catherine Wines bursary.
“With WorldRemit’s support to drive economic development, enhance skills and create jobs, whilst extending the project to various countries lacking technology and broadband access, there’s a bright future ahead for the Coderoots initiative.”