African Library project aims to end the cycle of poverty and illiteracy by working with rural African libraries to improve literacy and support the spread of education. A few actions include starting libraries, training local teacher-librarians, supporting HIV/AIDS education, and promoting African children’s literature. 

Literacy impacts the quality of life one can engage in through education. A quality education equips pupils with literacy skills for life that carry on to further learning, career paths, and making choices. Literate people are able to better access other education and employment opportunities; and collectively, literate societies are better geared to meet development challenges. Illiteracy denies opportunity; the largest barrier to increasing literacy is lack of books, especially in rural areas. 

African Library Project’s STEM initiative was created to further encourage educational growth and development in African countries. The STEM initiative was started by Youth Ambassador, Saurav Gandhi, to provide more STEM related resources to African libraries. With an economic decline and social-distance practice set in place, the team had to focus on a new approach. The team transitioned to bringing awareness to the African Library Project using STEM and employing technology as their tool. 

Hackathons have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way for programmers to develop elaborate projects to show-off their skills. It’s a platform to motivate participants to fully engage in projects that address specific themes and problems. African Library Project’s Youth Program Manager, Tatiana Santos, and Youth Ambassadors, Divya Prakash, Saurav Gandhi, and Nanki Sekhon, teamed under the STEM initiative to help bring a hackathon to life; this time, consulting literacy and health issues affecting Africa. Thus, Hack for Africa was born. 

Hack for Africa: A Microsoft Challenge was a 6-day online hackathon hosted by the Afrcan Library Project in partnership with Microsoft. A number of online workshops and events also took place during the week; App Development, Quickwork Platform, Web Development, and Neural Networks in the Wolfram Language were seminars dedicated to beginners to discover the basics of programming to apply to their submissions.

The event received attendance from 361 participants from 41 countries and 71 official submissions. Winners and runner-ups in the ‘Education/literacy’, ‘Health/COVID-19’, and ‘Other’ categories also received prizes. The prizes included consultations between the Afrcan Library Project and Microsoft to scale ideas, $100 Amazon gift cards, and Fire tablets.

The six judges were Chris Bradshaw- founder of the African Library Project, Nim Singh- Executive Director of the African Library Project, Tatiana Santos- Youth Engagement Program Manager for the African Library Project, Christina De Simone- Board Member at African Library Project, Laura Hill- Data & Tech Support Volunteer at African Library Project, and Teresa Nick- Senior Program Manager at Microsoft. Submissions were critiqued on implementation, ideation, presentation, scalability and impact. There were many thorough and creative ideas turned in, but a few stood out on all levels.

The winner in the ‘Education/literacy’ category was ALPapp, the only mobile library management system designed for the unique challenges faced by communities in developing nations.

Runner-up in the ‘Education/literacy’ category was Kitabu, a digital platform to donate, collect, and catalogue books.

Runner-up in the ‘Education/literacy’ category was BooKonnect, connecting children readers of Africa to the world.

The winner in the ‘Health/Covid-19’ category was DonateAPlate, a platform designed to process monthly donations in exchange for providing meals.

The runner-up in the ‘Health/Covid-19’ category was Tuber, a website that used machine learning to identify Malaria and Tuberculosis.

The winner in the “Other” category was Grow N Track, an app that helped farmers make better choices and save their work from locust attacks.

The STEM initiative will continue to pursue similar projects to further spread awareness to the African Library Project and the importance of STEM education. If you are interested in joining the STEM initiative, contact Youth Program Manager, Tatiana Santos, at

To donate to the STEM initiative, visit

Written by Nanki Sekhon

Youth Ambassador