Sowing the seeds for tomorrow’s mobile developers in Africa

By Megan Irvine


In 2015, I had the privilege and good fortune to go on a unique assignment. I traveled to Cairo, Egypt, to teach our curriculum for mobile developers with IBM Mobile Foundation. I delivered multiple training sessions over a three-week period to several groups of students and faculty members at education institutions in the region as part of the IBM Middle East and Africa (MEA) University program. It was my first time visiting Egypt, and it was an amazingly rewarding experience.

The IBM MEA University program, part of the IBM Academic Initiative, aims to address the skills shortage in Africa by working with universities in the region to train and certify faculty members and students in emerging technologies. Technology-based services in many African countries lag behind demand. By teaching students new technology skills, we help them meet this demand. These students are the future workforce, and by investing in them, we foster economic growth, drive innovation and increase IBM’s reach across the region. I was very excited to be a part of this program.

Welcome to Cairo

My first stop was at Ain Shams University. Founded in 1950, Ain Shams celebrated its 65th anniversary that year. It’s the third oldest university in Egypt and includes 15 faculties, two high institutes and over 180,000 students.

Students from week 1 at Ain Shams University

Students from week 1 at Ain Shams University

It was a pretty large group, including faculty members, teaching assistants and even some undergraduate students, mostly from the faculty of computer and information sciences. This being my first time in Egypt, I was expecting to feel a little culture shock, and though I did at first, I got over it very quickly. When I find myself among a group of strangers, I look for things we have in common. After my students and I got to know each other, it became a lively, enthusiastic group, asking lots of questions and engaging in discussion. We were all very passionate mobile developers, so of course we became fast friends.

Africa continues to go mobile

The popularity of mobile technology is spreading like wildfire throughout Africa, and Cairo — the largest city on the continent — is at the epicenter. It’s a rapidly growing city, and it seems like everyone has a cell phone.

Cell tower in Egypt disguised as palm tree

A cleverly disguised cell tower in Egypt

Egypt also has a very young population, with 75 percent of Egyptians under the age of 25. This generation has the huge challenge of overcoming impediments such as a lack of key infrastructure and rapid urbanization to keep pace with the demand for mobile technology.

I went on to deliver the course to two more groups of mobile developers from different institutions, including Assiut University, Banha University, Cairo University, Fayoum University, Future University, the Information Technology Institute (ITI) and Menoufia University.

Students from week 2 at IBM Egypt

Students from week 2 at IBM Egypt

What’s at stake with mobile development in Africa?

The overall reception was very positive. The students were eager and grateful to receive this training because we all knew what’s at stake. These students are the next generation of mobile enterprise architects and application developers, and they will drive innovation in that area. They want the same things I want. They want to build a better tomorrow for themselves and their children.

Students from week 3 at ITI

Students from week 3 at ITI

I’m glad I could be of service to this mission, and I will continue to support it as best I can, whether it’s by delivering more training or contributing to the program in some other way. By enabling members of the future workforce with the skills they need, we are creating a pipeline of talent that is essential to economic growth in the region.

Where are they now?

I kept in touch with many of the students from the trip and was pleased to see the program had a lasting effect. Many of them would tell me of the progress they made in their education, and later in their careers, often with a nod to the program. In the past two years, I saw them graduate, get certifications, get jobs and get promotions. As an educator, I could not ask for better validation. The moral of this story is that a little of the right kind of training can go a very long way.

Written By

Megan Irvine

Technical Enablement Specialist at IBM

Megan Irvine has been developing education for IBM Software for 20 years, and is currently a Technical Enablement Specialist for IBM Cloud, specializing in Mobile. She designs, develops, and delivers training to IBM customers, business partners, and employees around the world. She…