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Skilling culture pivotal to Africa’s tech evolution

By People Daily
Wednesday, September 30th, 2020
Digital world. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

Chrystèle Dumont 

The pandemic can be said to have played a major role in streamlining the move to a digitally operated world.

We have seen fast-tracked change where continuous skills development has shifted from a ‘nice to have’ to crucial for survival and relevance. 

A report by Mckinsey Global Institute estimated 800 million individuals will need to learn new skills to adequately fulfil their jobs by 2030.

This, coupled with our recent findings that by 2025 digital job capacity will grow by 149 million jobs, makes it clear it is not enough to make one-off investment or show an ad hoc awareness towards skills development. Pivotal to Africa’s survival and digital transformation is cultivating an ongoing culture of skilling.

At Microsoft, we have long committed to closing the skills and opportunity gap, assisting everyone, particularly those unreached or displaced by technology, to acquire skills, knowledge and opportunity to succeed in the digital economy. 

For us, cultivating a culture of skilling implies continuously keeping our pulse on an dynamic environment to ensure we not only make long-term investments, nurture strategic partnerships and provide access to resources and connectivity, but also keep an acute awareness on innovations at a grassroots levels.

We have always been aware that for change to manifest and have the desired impact, we cannot act alone.

Identifying and cultivating strategic partnerships with bodies and organisations has played a crucial role in scaling our efforts and tapping into tailored needs, where ordinarily would not be possible.

Partnerships such as the one we have with the African Development Bank and Coding for Employment have been designed to equip youth across the continent with the skills to secure ICT, ICT-enabled and ICT services employment.

All this, with a long-term goal of upskilling 50 million youth. Another target of this partnership is creation of 25 million jobs within GDP contributing sectors such as agriculture and ICT.

Worth mentioning as well is our digital skills program, which since 2017 has upskilled around 4.8 million youth in Africa and in so doing, leaving half a million-youth employable and supporting direct employment of over 27,000 youth, providing 2,680 internship opportunities, and enabling over 1,500 entrepreneurs to establish businesses. 

A culture of skilling can only be created through long-term consistency. For us, Africa has been and remains a melting pot of opportunity and innovation and thus, its potential must be nurtured.

We launched the first Microsoft Africa Development Centre, with two initial sites in Nairobi and Lagos.

Through infrastructure investment and employment of qualified local engineers, we expect investments across the two sites to total $100 million (Sh10.8 billion) over the first five years, with a target of  more than 500 engineers. 

Many investors have erred in focusing on needs of big corporations as catalysts of change during the fourth industrial revolution.

Yet unprecedented innovations and contributions come from small business owners across the continent who, to scale and create impact, require investment and access.

At Microsoft, we have long worked with startups in upskilling and reskilling.

Through our Startup Hub we have cultivated over 78 partnerships to build a 360 support to start up ecosystem in Morocco, Nigeria, Kenya in FinTech, Healthcare, Education and AgriTech.

We have worked with government agencies to provide teaching training on computer science education to ensure adoption of gender responsive pedagogy in schools. 

Forwarding digital transformation without providing access to the necessary technologies and resources would be futile.

With this in mind and in response to the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19, we recently announced a new global skills initiative aimed at bringing more digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year.

Expanded access to digital skills is an important step in accelerating economic recovery, especially for the people hardest hit by job losses.

— The writer is Marketing and Operations Lead, Microsoft Middle East Africa, Emerging Markets