FROM LEARNING TO EARNING

Digital skills open doors for those willing to learn

Digital skills are empowering young Africans, bridging the skills gap and shaping the future of work

In Summary

• Elvis Warutumu and Latifat Kilani are utilising increased mobile Internet access

• By 2030, 230 million jobs in sub-Saharan Africa will require digital skills, study says

Illustration of using digital skills to earn
Illustration of using digital skills to earn
Image: HOPE MUKAMI

"Digital learning has given me everything I ever wanted in life," says Elvis Warutumu, a Nairobi-based digital creator.

"I am a graphic designer, web developer and programming expert."

Warutumu, in his mid-20s, not only tutors digitally but also mentors more than 5,000 digital learners directly enrolled in his courses.

"With my procurement degree, it would have been almost impossible to secure solid employment in Kenya. But hours of learning on different platforms have given me more than just a job," Warutumu says.

As the founder of Terra Creations, a creative agency and a personal website, the young creative offers information, paid classes and valuable advice on courses and personal development.

Warutumu’s story epitomises the situation for countless young Africans who are leveraging the continent's flourishing digital ecosystem to acquire skills and earn a living.

In addition to technical skills, individuals are capitalising on their unique strengths, such as teaching languages.

With my procurement degree, it would have been almost impossible to secure solid employment in Kenya. But hours of learning on different platforms have given me more than just a job
Elvis Warutumu

ANOTHER TESTIMONY

Nigerian YouTuber Latifat Kilani, for instance, shares how she makes a good monthly income by teaching Yoruba and Pidgin English online.

"I didn't need to work more than five hours a day, yet I accumulated enough to cover my expenses," she says.

From YouTube to platforms like Course Sera Code Camp, Alison and IBM, African creatives are turning in droves to self-learning in the wake of the continent's digital revolution. They are now competing for global job opportunities remotely.

Thanks to widespread 4G (and now 5G) wireless connectivity and a trans-continental fibre-optic network, improved Internet access (and with it, online learning through mobile devices) has soared.

A 2023 Statista report reveals that Morocco boasts the highest mobile Internet access in Africa, with 88.1 per cent. Other top performers include Seychelles (81.6 per cent), Egypt (80.7 per cent), Tunisia (79 per cent), Botswana (73.5 per cent), South Africa (72.3 per cent), Gabon (71.7 per cent) and Algeria (70.9 per cent).

Increased Internet access is also growing on the back of growing take-up of smart mobile devices across the continent. The devices not only offer Internet access but also a means of creating content, both creative and factual.

"Beyond tutoring, the content I create and share on social media is becoming another revenue stream," Warutumu says.

The creator's TikTok videos consistently garner an average viewership of around 10,000 per month from a follower base of close to 220,000, all of which translates into potential clients.

Picking up on the opportunity, a number of cross-continental digital skill development programmes are rolling out, designed to prepare and position more Africans for the opportunities that the digital space offers.

This week, DevCareer a Nigerian nonprofit, announced a partnership with UK-Nigeria Tech Hub, an initiative of the UK and Nigeria, seeking to impart professional-level digital skills to more than 1,700 Nigerians.

A statement by DevCareer announcing the partnership indicates a blend of expert-led training targeting careers in product management, software development and design.

UPSKILLING DRIVE

Similar initiatives include the MTN Skills Academy, which enrols youths to provide digital and financial skills training, enhancing their employment prospects.

MTN partners with digital space companies like SAS Skill Builder to achieve this objective.

Yolanda Cuba, the Group Regional vice president for the Southern and East African region, emphasises that the camp aims to "build leadership and create opportunities for people to thrive".

Additionally, American tech giant Cisco plans to upskill up to 10 million individuals in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, with a focus on digital and cybersecurity skills.

Reem Asaad, vice president of Cisco Middle East and Africa, said in an interview with Mail & Guardian that three million of these skill upgrades will be provided in Africa.

A Nigerian NGO, The Techy Train Incubator, is also spearheading a digital skills upgrade programme for young women in Nigeria, targeting the international digital job market.

Warutumu says the major opportunity lies in technical skills. He believes cultivating a culture of self-learning and regular experimentation is the key to addressing these gaps.

According to a 2019 International Finance Corporation Report, by 2030, 230 million jobs in sub-Saharan Africa will require digital skills.

"The opportunities for self-learning in the digital space are immense," Warutumu said.

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