Case Study

A lab for Nyabiheke Refugee Camp

A lab in a refugee camp is creating transformational, globally relevant change for displaced refugees in Rwanda

Alight Rwanda

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In the past 20 years, Rwanda has transformed into a hub of tech activity, with the capital Kigali at the center. The country is investing in tech infrastructure, with the world’s most powerful multinational tech companies, including the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon, setting up shop.

Yet Nyabiheke Refugee Camp in Rwanda was frustratingly cut off from the world – the nearest internet café was 15 km away, and even that was bare bones, with old computers and spotty wi-fi. There was no easy way for refugees to stay in touch with loved ones in other countries, do an online job search, or take online classes, things that might actually help them build a future.  

Gaetan, a Congolese refugee in Nyabiheke for the past 15 years, approached Alight with an ambitious idea: a computer lab for the Camp. Not just that, but one that offered IT training, preparing him and his friends for the real world in Rwanda.  


Alight raised the funds to build the lab, to construct the building, to furnish it with new computers, and to invest in all the equipment to get it up and running.

Next steps: design a coding school that not only created a space for connectivity, but that equipped refugees with high-demand, highly marketable IT skill sets. That guarantees job placement in some of the most desirable tech companies. That radically improve the lives of refugees in Nyabiheke. That makes them competitive in the global economy.


We convened an all-star team of humanitarians, entrepreneurs, tech professionals, and refugees to design a six-month course that immersed students in competitive programming languages, with the goal of placing every one of those students in jobs once completed. Our goal is to equip graduates with world-class coding skills – skills that would be competitive anywhere.

"Our coding school gives them best-in-class skills that are competitive and desirable for tech companies. And then we’ll land them that job. Settling for less is simply not good enough."

Bernad Ochieng

Our team includes kLab, an open technology hub in Kigali where students, fresh graduates, entrepreneurs and innovators come to incubate and develop their ideas. It includes AfricSearch, a recruitment firm with a network of offices throughout Africa, Europe, and the U.S. And, at the center are young adults like Gaetan, refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who live in Nyabiheke camp.

This is more than just a coding school. This is transformational, globally relevant change – rooted in human needs desires, and dreams.

“We aren’t just creating a coding school that trains refugees and then says ‘good luck,'” said Bernad Ochieng, Alight Rwanda’s former country director. “No. Our coding school gives them best-in-class skills that are competitive and desirable for tech companies. And then we’ll land them that job. Settling for less is simply not good enough.”

UPDATE June 3, 2024: The lab in in Nyabiheke was launched, along with another one in Mahama refugee camp in Rwanda's Eastern Province, and they are already proving successful: Two dozen software developers graduated in 2023-2024 and quickly found employment and internships. Read the full story on The New Times.

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