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february. 2021

bamako. mali

medium. written


This is a powerful story about a young changemaker in Mali, working on social innovation and education for youth. In one of the most challenging climates in the world, both politically and environmentally, Bakary stays resilient by investing in others.


During the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be easy to

get sucked into U.S. news and stories going on here. However, there is one story that should not remain untold happening on the other side of the Earth. In Mali in West Africa, Bakary Coulibaly is making leaps and bounds in changing the way technical education is delivered to rural communities and the expectations young people have about education available in Mali. I came to know Bakary through the consortium Precision Africa, a group dedicated to providing a multipurpose hub for engineering needs and solving STEM-based challenges in the Bamako community, the capital of Mali. It was immediately apparent how driven Bakary was. He had so much to offer in the way of experience, technical know-how and an overall passion for learning. I asked Bakary to respond to a series of questions over WhatsApp audio messaging, since it can often be difficult for him to have a strong Wi-Fi connection for international video calling. 

Bakary is a computer technician, teacher, and entrepreneur who hails from Safo, a village about 20 kilometers northeast of Bamako. He has experienced firsthand how lack of quality education, and particularly IT-related education, can have a profound impact on individuals, communities, and entire populations. In his own words, Bakary sums up why he works in the field of technical education: “As a young leader at Safo, my vision is focused on how to end computer illiteracy in the Safo community through computer literacy classes, which in turn will increase the economic potential of the population.”

So how does he do this?


In 2015, Bakary founded the Computer Training Center of Safo (C.F.I.S.), to tackle this very challenge of computer illiteracy, starting in his own village. Bakary explained the purpose of the Center: “CFIS teaches and offers theoretical and practical computer science courses to the Safo community. The reason I started the project is because the computer- especially when people are trained in its use- is one of the best ways to communicate, connect people to each other, find a good job, and help improve daily activities.”

Through C.F.I.S., Bakary has organized several computer training groups, upskilling over 40% of the Center’s students who are now able to work in technical capacities, drawing on their professionalized computer competencies. Bakary explained that once the students graduate from a three-month  program, they receive a certificate as proof of their training on C.F.I.S. software and computer programs. “Providing certificates helps participants obtain employment with computer training skills. Since many jobs require these skills and certifications, it is important to receive these papers.”

Beyond his work with C.F.I.S., Bakary was accepted into the

Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI), a program started in 2010 by the Obama Administration. YALI began with the goal of investing in Africa’s next generation of young leaders. Since the continent has such a young population to begin with (60% of Africa’s total population being below the age of 35), the idea was for 700 YALI recruits to travel to the U.S. via a foreign exchange program and be paired with different U.S. colleges and universities. These outstanding leaders would share their stories and experiences with their U.S. counterparts, in turn taking the knowledge they acquired and skills possessed back to their respective countries. Since the 2020 cohort was postponed for the spring of 2021 due to COVID-19, Bakary will come to Washington, D.C. this spring as a part of the program. Bakary hopes to apply his YALI experience within his own community once he returns to Mali: “I must continue IT education in my community… I will return to my native village (Safo) to share lessons learned from the YALI program.”


Aside from the pandemic and other challenges Bakary has faced in a country like Mali, where resources are bare and opportunities come sparingly, the young leader and changemaker had yet another obstacle to overcome last year. In August of 2020, a group of armed soldiers forcibly removed the President at the time, President Keita and his administration. A coup d'État had taken place, leaving the future of the country in the hands of a new regime. Mali has not had it easy. Despite all the turmoil that came with this turnover and the pandemic though, Bakary did not sway from his work and dream to advance STEM learning in his village in Mali.

In the future, Bakary is excited for the YALI program and the experiences he will gain in the U.S. “I hope to develop more problem-solving and leadership skills based on the lessons learned from my efforts and make it a stronger center.”


To find out more about C.F.I.S. and Bakary’s work, please visit their Facebook page or reach out to him directly on his email:

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