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newtimes - 11 days ago

FEATURED: Addressing Africa’s Critical Digital Skills Needs

Technology plays a critical role in every aspect of the 21st century. It changes how people access education, how organizations work, and how we engage in everyday transactions. The importance of a digitally connected and skilled Africa is apparent. The digital economy cannot grow without the right skills. To become more competitive and follow the fast pace of technological innovation globally, developing economies need to re-skill their workforce with the skills for future jobs. Africa’s Yawning Skills Gap Africa has a significant digital skills gap which is undermining economic opportunities and development. According to the World Economic Forum, approximately 230 million jobs across the continent will require some digital skills by 2030. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for government and industry to harness new technologies and find data-driven solutions towards reducing Africa’s socio-economic deficiencies. The development of digital skills in Africa is thus crucial, with Smart Africa spearheading this through the Smart Africa Digital Academy (SADA), a catalyst for building fair, inclusive, and sustainable digital societies in Africa. Cross Sectoral Digital Skills Altogether, 230 million jobs will require digital skills by 2030 across Africa. Only about 30 million of these jobs will be in the ICT and e-commerce sector, traditionally considered to be the main drivers of demand. This has major implications for the type of training that decision makers and workers need and how it could be delivered. Much of the demand for digital skills will emanate from generic occupations that are not from narrowly defined ICT professions, as more enterprises adopt digital technologies in a broad range of sectors. About 70% of the demand will be for foundational digital skills and another 23% will be for non-ICT intermediate level digital skills. To respond to this demand, Africa needs to rapidly train decision makers and employees to meet the requirements of the future. Solving unemployment Digital upskilling offers the easiest path to solving unemployment issues - by creating opportunities for and deploying the mass of stagnant talent we have in Africa and across the continent. Upskilling and reskilling a new and emerging workforce remains critical to Africa’s economic recovery. “We recognize the urgent need to equip the African youth with digital skills to fit them for the future market while empowering decision makers to foster agile policies and regulation for the digital transformation,” notes Smart Africa Director General and CEO Lacina Koné. Mr. Koné stresses that strengthening skills is a prerequisite for effective digital transformation on the continent and the achievement of a single digital market in Africa that Smart Africa has been championing. Upskilling decision makers As much as it is important to upskill the digital workforce, it is essential to also equip decision makers with the right skills to lead governments and organisations. It’s only through investing in individuals and leaders while allowing them to bridge the digital divide through free and accessible digital access initiatives and programmes, that we can ensure Africa is well-equipped to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To date, Smart Africa has trained over 400 decision makers from 22 countries in key digital skills for decision makers and looking to train a total of 1000 by the end of 2021, towards agile regulation in Africa. Importance of the Smart Africa Digital Academy (SADA) The Smart Africa Digital Academy (SADA) was initiated in 2020 as a pan-African dynamic learning ecosystem in which African citizens of all ages and social classes can gain or improve their digital skills, gain qualifications, meet the emerging talent needs of employers, industry or be self-reliant. The initiative seeks to empower all African citizens to take advantage of the digital transformation. This is achieved through four essential components namely: Capacity building for Decision-makers, programs for digital inclusion, Skills marketplace for professionals and Talent Bridge for businesses. Other strategic areas of SADA are IT advanced training, IT specialization, STEAM fostering and ICT literacy for all. Collaborative action Hundreds of millions of people in Africa are in need training or retraining in digital skills. The ability to scale up sustainable business models will have a big impact on the continent’s growth. SADA ensures that the delivery of training programs uses digital tools to ensure that the delivery is part of the learning process. The process of delivering digital skills needs to be collaborative, which is why SADA partners with Public, Developmental sector partners of the Smart Africa Alliance to deliver key skills across the continent. Nonetheless, a lot of progress is already being recorded in our acknowledgement of the existence of a gap and willingness to bridge it through diverse creative initiatives and collaborative actions. Conclusion Key to stimulating actions required for Africa to leverage technology to propel socio-economic development, is the acknowledgment of opportunities and risks associated with digital transformation. For instance, the capacity to create and effectively use online trade platforms as well as regulate them and the ability to quell cyberattacks, all necessitate digital aptitude. The importance of developing digital skills in Africa can’t be stressed enough, neither can the need for stakeholders to join forces to achieve this.


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