Digital services are getting organised in Africa with training provided by Simplon

Funded by the Societe Generale Foundation, Simplon offers free training in digital professions at its schools. The goal? To promote the vocational integration of thousands of people with few prospects of finding work by building new skills for the economies of Africa.

After being founded just five years ago, Simplon has developed a global network of 45 digital factories across France and worldwide. The guiding principle? Training a new generation of job seekers in digital professions in eight months at its schools without regard to gender or age, by focusing on highly motivated individuals. Success factor? A recognised educational model – released in open source in France – that is 100 % hands-on. Worldwide, Simplon relies on vocational training professionals to make its educational approach accessible. For instance, in Senegal we’ve formed a partnership with the National Office of Vocational Training (“ONFP”). Forty ONFP trainers will be trained during the first stage, who will then train 500 young people around the country. And it works really well. Of the 1,500 individuals trained each year, 80 % land a job within six months of leaving school and 100 % are employed after one year.

An increase in support

The Societe Generale Corporate Foundation has been supporting us since 2015”, underscores Frédéric Bardeau, President and Co-Founder. “The first time, it helped us found a school in the northern neighbourhoods of Marseille with funding of €25,000. In 2016, we received €50,000 in funding to support the expansion of our organisation in Ile-de-France. This support was increased in 2017 with a budget of €140,000 split between participation in a national educational programme in computer coding for young people in France and the opening of a Simplon Digital Factory in Dakar, Senegal, Simplon.AUF.

Strong growth in Africa

Today, Africa accounts for 5 % of Simplon’s activities, with schools in Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco and Senegal. Additional schools are planned in Benin, Gabon, Tunisia, Togo and Burkina Faso. “We plan to welcome larger class sizes in these countries, with 30 to 100 students. We usually respond to incoming requests from the different countries, all of which help contribute to the success of the initiatives we spearhead, because they look forward to our projects.

Key facts & figures

  • 2013: company founded

  • 2,600 graduate trainees

  • 38 % women graduates (more in Africa)

  • 45 factories worldwide

  • The awareness of 36,400 children raised

Hands-on training

For Frédéric Bardeau, voted Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the Continent of Africa is brimming with assets that will help it become a new digital El Dorado, driven by its Start-up Lions, as the start-ups of African Tech are known. Among them? The tremendous potential of its youth (first in the world), the growth of the domestic market and the emergence of a middle class with access to banking that is demanding new services. "In Europe, we focus on drop-outs with little or no training whose prospects for employment are frequently very dim. In Africa, the situation is completely different. We welcome more students with a university education but whose knowledge is mainly theoretical, which makes vocational integration difficult.” With regard to gender balance, the Simplon digital factories have no problem in this area. “Women are well-represented in our schools in Africa and they are particularly hard-working. Many of them will start their own businesses once they complete their training.

In our schools, women are particularly well-represented and hard-working. Once they complete their training, many will start their own businesses.

Frédéric Bardeau, President of Simplon

Linkage with the local ecosystem

Like Simplon.AUF@Dakar in Senegal, one of Simplon’s special characteristics is its reliance on the close linkage of its projects with the local authorities responsible for education and vocational training. This school was developed in partnership with the Agency of Francophone Universities (AUF), which today call the campus of the University of Dakar home in order to foster more synergies. “On 28 March, we launched our first cohort of 26 university drop-outs, 50 % of whom were women.”

A partnership that is a source of visibility

"With the teams of the Societe Generale Corporate Foundation, we got to know each other and developed mutual trust. We share the same ambition with it comes to developing the continent.” Today, this ambition is taking shape through a Zone Afrique priority partnership for 2018-2020 with a budget allocation of €150,000 per year. “This amount of funding and its duration represents assets that are particularly rare in the voluntary sector. I want to acknowledge the commitment of the Foundation to stand by our side. It has given us genuine capacity to effectively design new projects in truly comfortable working conditions.

A positive reply for youth

For Frédéric Bardeau, above and beyond education, the Simplon factories are playing a role in Africa by strengthening people’s appreciation for their own strengths. “Unemployed youth is a waste of human talent and generates indirect costs for the State. If graduates cannot find work, then why go to school? Our factories promote an exemplary model with employable trainees, and specifically, trainees who have found jobs with local businesses. They play an essential role in training others.