Promoting the adoption of digital skills amongst Africa’s youth

In Summary

• The future is digital. Given the fast paced advancements in technology, and its globally transformative implications, it is critical that Africa’s youthful generation is well equipped to traverse and take charge of Africa’s digital growth.

• Current day and age, perhaps the biggest driver, arguably, of socioeconomic development is the digital economy. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto in a classroom with pupils of Catholic Primary School in Wajir where they had visited to inspect the implementation of the Digital Literacy Programme(DLP).
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto in a classroom with pupils of Catholic Primary School in Wajir where they had visited to inspect the implementation of the Digital Literacy Programme(DLP).
Image: FILE

The 5th Regional Forum for the Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (“PASET”), scheduled from 20 – 22 May 2019, in Kigali, Rwanda, brought together industry experts from diverse fields, notable members of academia and prominent policy makers with a similar vision in mind – creating a critical mass of highly skilled science and technology professionals in Africa. Specifically, the 5th PASET Forum placed focus on the implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Digital Economy on High Education and Skills Development in Africa.

As we have discussed on numerous occasions through this column, the future is digital. Given the fast paced advancements in technology, and its globally transformative implications, it is critical that Africa’s youthful generation is well equipped to traverse and take charge of Africa’s digital growth. It is with this in mind that the African Union recently unveiled an initiative targeted at creating direct opportunities for the development of youth in Africa, dubbed the One Million By 2021 Initiative. Specifically, the Initiative aims to concretely reach millions of African youth from across the continent with opportunities and interventions in the key areas of employment, entrepreneurship, education and engagement, with a view to accelerate socioeconomic development on the African continent.

Indeed, in the current day and age, perhaps the biggest driver, arguably, of socioeconomic development is the digital economy. It therefore stands to reason that Africa’s youthful population should be nurtured into honing Africa’s inherent digital capacity. To achieve this, it is imperative that African countries collaborate and coordinate their efforts with respect to investing resources in the promotion of digital skills through Higher Learning Institutions, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Institutions and private sector involvement.

 

On the private sector front, it is commendable that a number of private sector players in the ICT space have taken on the challenge of equipping Africa’s youthful generation with valuable digital skills. Initiatives by Safaricom, Craft Silicon, Microsoft and Google, to name a few, are aimed at developing professionals that are adequately equipped to embrace the digital future, be it in terms of data science, artificial intelligence, augmented reality or application development.

Efforts toward the achievement of the above, that is the equipping of digital skills to Africa’s youth, are already bearing fruit all over Africa, with African youth branding themselves as innovators, entrepreneurs and future leaders in the digital space. Nairobi, for instance, has been aptly earned and held the title ‘Silicon Savannah’, after the infamous Silicon Valley. Kenya’s success is evidenced by internationally renowned home-grown applications such as MPESA, Ushahidi and Little Cab wherein Kenya’s talent in the digital space prevails. With the support of innovation spaces, incubation centres, accelerators, maker labs, Higher Learning Institutions and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Institutions African youth are poised for digital success.

Karen Kandie – MD IDB Capital