Impala Bridge: How Code Club is helping to bring digital making to Benin

Code Club started in 2012 in the U.K., with the aim to give local children a chance to learn to code. Fast forward ten years and there are Code Clubs in over 160 countries around the world, with partner organisations* working in many regions.

In Benin, Impala Bridge is a partner organisation using Code Club and CoderDojo programmes to give young learners (and educators) access to digital making. Izzy, Global Community Coordinator, caught up with Martin Mbaga, one of the co-founders of Impala Bridge, to find out more.

Local Benin educators

The inspiration

Martin and the other co-founders were inspired by their own experiences; many of the volunteers are former refugees. While living in refugee camps in Belgium, they had the opportunity to learn coding and other digital skills. For Martin, this helped inspire his passion for technology and community outreach: “Belgium has given me something, now I have to give it back.”

How does it work?

Impala Bridge operates in Belgium and Benin. In Belgium, the focus is on refugee camps, teaching coding and robotics. In Benin, they work with other organisations to support Guerra Digital Innovation Hub. Operating in Parakou, North Benin, Guerra helps the community improve their digital literacy in several ways. Educators and volunteers are given training to improve their own digital skills and prepare them to run clubs. In turn, these teachers and volunteers go on to set up Code Clubs in local secondary schools.

Code Club leaders gather together from across Benin

Powered by people

During our conversation, one thing comes up again and again: people. “For me it’s all about people,” Martin says. “School teachers and directors of the schools (particularly our early adopters from Albarika College), IT leaders and ministry workers, the Director of UNFPA (United Nations Fund for Populations) and UN agency innovation teams, without them this wouldn’t work. Giving those people recognition is important.” He also highlights the volunteers, from the teachers in Belgium connecting with teachers in Benin, to the local university students running clubs, to the schools themselves: “If you don’t have people, you can’t do anything.”

Hopes for 2023 and beyond

Based on the success of the current model, the team at Impala Bridge hopes to expand the area they operate in and increase the number of clubs. They also have plans to create a regular cohort of learners using Micro:bit computers. They have already run several events of this type, and they hope for the learners — mostly girls from the local community — to take part in the annual Micro:bit challenge.

Code Club members

More broadly, Impala Bridge hopes to continue to help the community as a whole. Martin explains that EdTech entrepreneurs who volunteer at Code Clubs have gone on to use their learnings to help create virtual solutions and make jobs. And for the learners themselves, Code Club is opening up new possibilities for their lives: “With IT and globalisation, you can make your future better.”

Find out more about becoming a Code Club partner organisation

*The Raspberry Pi Foundation partners with organisations around the world to help support local Code Club and CoderDojo communities. Growth partners start and support a collection of clubs in their own network, while national partners take on the responsibility of supporting all clubs in their country, building a nationwide CoderDojo or Code Club community.