BEIRUT — Leading international software development and coding school 42 is opening a “partner campus” in Beirut early next year, funded by shipping company CMA CGM.
Though 42 is not the first school of its kind to open in Lebanon in recent years, it is a move that members of the local tech industry hope could – eventually, at least – boost a sector mired by brain drain and countrywide economic collapse.
Founded in 2013 in Paris, Ecole 42 is an international high-tech, software development and coding school that has more than 50 campuses worldwide.
The Beirut campus is set to open in spring 2024 in downtown’s Beirut Digital District, and aims to recruit 150 students per year, according to campus director Dr. Wissam Sammouri. Tuition will be free, he adds, covered by French shipping and logistics giant CMA CGM, whose chairman is Franco-Lebanese businessman Rodolphe Saadé.
Unlike other coding schools in Lebanon, 42 promises to accept students who do not yet have an undergraduate degree. The stakes are high – in a survey last year, nearly 50 percent of Lebanese respondents said they wanted to leave Lebanon. That number rose to 61 percent for those with a university education.
Could schools like 42 help slow Lebanon’s brain drain?
“The more we have qualified coders in the country, the more we strengthen SMEs [small to medium enterprises] who are servicing the information and communication technologies (ICT) sectors,” says Ramy Boujawdeh, COO of Lebanese incubator Berytech.
“The more they service outside markets remotely, the better it is for retaining talent in a country that struggles with brain drain.”
Fadi Bizri, CEO of coding bootcamp SE Factory, says players in Lebanon’s tech sector are hoping to turn the country into a tech outsourcing destination for multinational entities seeking qualified talents.
“Uplifting Lebanese talent is important, as they provide high-quality work at affordable costs compared to counterparts in other countries like the US, the UK and Germany,” says Bizri. “The quality over cost ratio is high.”
For him, the new Ecole 42 campus could “help put Lebanon on the map.”
But first, Lebanon needs to retain – and teach – its young coders.
One former SE Factory student, Mike Ayoub, tells L’Orient Today that the “high probability” of finding a job pushed him to study coding. He had previously been a civil engineer, a job with few prospects in Lebanon.
Coding also meant Ayoub could search for remote work with international companies that provide competitive salaries. He currently works from Lebanon and services companies in the Gulf.
So far, the new Beirut campus is among nine Ecole 42 partner campuses in the Middle East and North Africa.