Tech gives Middle Eastern refugees a new chance

#WomenInTech: Nearly half – 43 per cent – of Refugee Code Week participants were female.

Those who thought refugees were resigned to being the flotsam of humanity, living off benefits and charity from richer nations, you couldn’t be more wrong.

More than 10,000 refugees and youth across the Middle East have been learning a new language to get along in this brave new world: coding.

The inaugural Refugee Code Week, which took place in October, aims to fill important jobs in the Digital Economy while throwing a lifeline to displaced young people from across the region. The event took place across Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, which are among the world’s largest hosts of refugees according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Billions in investment

Demonstrating the potential for ICT careers, Middle East and Africa governments are investing $260 billion (Dh955 billion) in IT in 2016, according to research firm IDC. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for example, will have an ICT job shortage of 37,700 in 2017, according to a recent Saudi government report.

“The success of Refugee Code Week demonstrates how governments, the private sector, international organizations, and civil society can inspire and develop sustainable Digital Economy education models for youth. UNHCR and our partners are committed to helping the Middle East and Africa youth and refugees develop and launch their digital IT careers, help rebuild countries, and empower women,” said Brad Henderson, Corporate and Foundation Relations Lead at the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Refugee Code Week was spearheaded by global technology company SAP, in collaboration with UNHCR and the Galway Education Centre, along with partnerships with over 30 local governments, non-profit organisations, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, and businesses.

“Across the Middle East and North Africa, there are tens of thousands unfilled technology jobs,” said Gergi Abboud, Managing Director for the Gulf, North Africa, Levant, and Pakistan at SAP. “Refugee Code Week is providing a lifeline to help young people in refugee camps and beyond to acquire coding skills, empower young adults to consider IT careers, and integrate coding into curriculums for long-term sustainable technology education.”

Women in tech

Supporting women in ICT, nearly half – 43 percent – of Refugee Code Week participants were female. SAP partnered with the ReBootKamp in Jordan for the first immersive code boot camp in the Arab World focused on empowering refugees. Refugee Code Week’s most promising students were given the opportunity to join the boot camp in Jordan to sharpen their Web programming or SAP Business One skills during the intensive 16-week programme. All graduates from the first cohort have found a job.

“In the Digital Economy, coding will be the foundation of tomorrow’s careers. Refugee Code Week amplified participants’ technology background and determination to join the ReBootKamp boot camp – enhancing their coding levels and inspiring opportunities for technology-based careers. Coding boot camps are career accelerators, and have the potential to impact the massive surplus of untapped intellectual potential in the refugee space,” said Hugh Bosely, Founder and Executive Director, ReBootKamp.

In Turkey, which hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide at 2.5 million, seven partners collaborated with the Kiron Open Higher Education for sustainable online and offline education for refugees. Refugee Code Week Participants have the opportunity to register towards the Kiron Certificate Program, and SAP volunteers have become Kiron mentors to support young students.

Jordan hosted the highest number of Refugee Code Week participants with a total of 4,783. Twelve partners targeted refugees in both urban locations and in the Zaatari Refugee Camp. Student trainers across eight universities were also keen to make an impact and inspire youth in the Digital Economy.

In the world’s third-largest refugee hosting country, Lebanon, SAP joined forces with non-governmental organizations and partners such as arcenciel, Berytech, Digital Opportunity Trust Lebanon, Malaak, ProCons, Social Support Society, Teach for Lebanon, and the Unite Lebanon Youth Project. Supporting the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s Reach All Children with Education initiative’s aims to enhance quality of learning, Refugee Code Week conducted coding training sessions across seven governates, and multiplied teacher training by empowering 300 teachers and mothers with coding skills.

In Egypt, 568 urban refugees across five nationalities also benefitted from an introduction to coding.

The Refugee Code Week model built on the success of the recent Africa Code Week 2016, which trained more than 426,758 participants in coding skills.

For more information on Refugee Code Week, visit Or check out the cool infographic below.