Orange Foundation in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) has announced a partnership for the establishment of an Orange Digital Center in Liberia. Financial support for the project comes from both the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Orange. In addition to Liberia, the center is being implemented in 13 countries in Africa and the Middle East. The overall project in Africa will cost approximately 30 million Euros and is aimed at promoting employment, entrepreneurship, and digital innovation skills amongst young people.
In Liberia, the Orange Digital Center (ODC) will introduce and make otherwise unavailable or unaffordable cutting-edge technologies available to young people. Ms. Sara Elizabeth Buchanan, Executive Director of Orange Foundation & Orange Digital Center stresses that the project is intended to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by providing opportunities to train young people in coding and provide funding and support for ideas they have around developing digital businesses. She said the long-term goal is to give young Liberians the chance to compete in an increasingly digital world.
Mr. Mathias Schroeder, Project Director of GIZ in Liberia, emphasized that the project was developed to assuage the increasing vulnerabilities young people face as a result of massive unemployment. “By promoting the development of digital technologies, GIZ and Orange Foundation offer opportunities for young people to find jobs within various companies,” said Mr. Schroeder. He noted that while all genders would participate in the project, specific steps would be taken to encourage the full participation of young women.
The ODC takes a multipronged approach in addressing youth unemployment and access to technology. In addition to a coding school, the ODC provides several opportunities for digital skills training, acceleration of innovative start-ups, and making financial investments in project leaders.
All of these will be executed under one of four thematic umbrellas: The Coding School, FabLab, Orange Fab, and Orange Ventures Africa. The following are detailed activities under each thematic area: The coding school is a technological center free and open for all, offers training, events, and support for developers, geeks, and project idea bearers.
The FabLab Solidaire is a digital manufacturing workshop (maker space) for creating and prototyping with digital equipment including three-dimensional printers (3D printers) and laser cutters. There is already a global and growing network of 129 FabLabs Solidaires.
Finally, Orange Fab and Orange Ventures Africa are programs that target entrepreneurs. The first is a start-up accelerator that accompanies the most promising youths in their commercial development and also helps them build commercial partnerships with the Orange Group and the global network of Orange Fabs. The second, Orange Ventures Africa, is a €50 million investment fund that finances innovative start-ups in countries on the African continent and in the Middle East region.