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Africa’s tech skills development goes beyond the classroom

Tech skills development in Africa is increasingly going beyond the borders of the classroom as organisations take novel approaches to addressing pervasive skills availability constraints.

Kholiwe Makhohliso, Managing Director at SAP Southern Africa,  says upskilling and mobilising Africa’s considerable skills base is a defining opportunity for the future success of the continent. “Digital technologies continue to shape industries and businesses throughout the continent, driving high levels of demand for professionals with relevant skills. As the pace of technological change continues to accelerate, organisations increasingly need new approaches to skills development to keep in step with the latest advances in cloud, AI and other transformative technologies.”

SAP’s 2023 report ‘Africa’s Tech Skills Scarcity Revealed‘ laid bare significant challenges with skills availability among organisations in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. The report revealed that low levels of tech skills availability affect most organisations, with four in five companies reporting negative consequences from a lack of tech skills.

While the tech skills gap persists globally – with McKinsey finding that 87% of global senior executives reported their companies were not adequately prepared to address the skills gap – the situation can be more acute for African organisations.

Cloud, AI skills in high demand

According to Manos Raptopoulos, President: SAP EMEA, skills availability has become even more important in light of the ongoing impact of cloud and artificial intelligence on the region. “Enterprises throughout the region are leveraging powerful new cloud and AI capabilities to transform their business models and accelerate growth and innovation. As the business landscape becomes increasingly shaped by the power of these technologies, organisations need access to relevant skills to ensure they reap the benefits of the cloud and AI revolution.”

SAP launched new learning opportunities for developers in 2023, focusing on cloud and generative AI capabilities. SAP Build Code solutions offer AI-powered productivity tools for developers and draws on the power of SAP’s AI co-pilot Joule to boost productivity and embed code generation capabilities for a range of applications, from data model and application logic to test script creation.

The company also launched new role-based certification and free learning resources for back-end developers in 2023 as part of a global commitment to upskill two million professionals by 2025.

Work-ready skills for graduates

The SAP Young Professionals Program (YPP), offered by the Digital Skills Centre of SAP, extends the company’s skills development efforts to graduates. YPP is aimed at enabling young talent to utilise the latest SAP technology and innovation, and covers software functional and technical knowledge and certification, with a strong focus on the latest technologies and a range of soft skills to ease entry into the workplace.

Since its launch in 2012, the SAP Young Professionals Program has trained and graduates more than 4100 candidates across 41 countries, including over 1900 in Africa alone.

Vincent Mabeka, a 2023 graduate from South Africa, says the SAP Young Professionals Program helped him improve his skills, learn about new technologies and gain hands-on experience and unlock new job opportunities.

“The Young Professionals Program required dedication, hard work and passion, but rewarded me with guidance, feedback and recognition for my skills and capabilities. This has helped me secure a job as an SAP Solutions Advisor where I apply the knowledge and skills I learned to exciting projects. Thanks to the resources and network I developed during my time on the program, I continue to learn and expand my skills and abilities.”

Youth skills development in focus

With the world’s fastest-growing youth population, any digital skills efforts in Africa must extend to the continent’s young people. Africa’s working-age population is predicted to grow to more than 600 million by 2030, constituting a quarter of the world’s under-25s. But digital skills remain elusive among Africa’s youth, despite a projected 70% of jobs expected to require digital skills by the end of the decade.

Enter SAP Africa Code Week (ACW), a coding skills development programme aimed at youth that is held annually in partnership with UNESCO, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa, and Irish Aid.

Since its inception in 2015, ACW has successfully empowered 17 million young people across 54 countries with coding and computational thinking skills, while close partnerships with NGOs and governments across the continent has helped drive the inclusion of coding in national curricula.

Toward the end of 2023, SAP also announced a new pilot project in partnership with UNICEF and other public-private organisations aimed at preparing underserved youth for the digital workforce. The SAP Educate to Employ initiative targets youth aged 16 to 24 and provides soft skills foundational knowledge using the Student Zone portal on SAP’s learning site. The knowledge prepares youth for a possible career in technology, with potential roles in development, consulting and support.

Makhohliso says the support of a broad range of partners is essential to overcoming youth skills challenges on the continent. “By directly addressing youth unemployment and inspiring our vibrant youth to pursue careers in the exciting world of technology, we together with our partners hope to mobilise the potential of our continent to become leading players in the future digital economy.”

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