4Afrika Initiative: 150 Kenyan female graduate students to get Microsoft support
Over 150 female graduate students from 24 universities across Kenya have been selected for the EmployMentor programme starting Monday. The programme is a partnership between Microsoft Corp., its 4Afrika Initiative and the African Centre for Women in Information and Communications Technology (ACWICT) to promote skills development and job placement for young female graduates in technology and business.
The program consists of one-on-one Skype sessions and on-the-field EmployMentor week training. The Skype component will demonstrate the effective utilisation of technology to gain information worker knowledge for 20 of the mentees for eight months.
The candidates will benefit from a combination of Microsoft’s skilled talent base and Microsoft finance mentors around the world. Already through the MySkills4Afrika programme, Microsoft employees are volunteering their time and talent to provide personalised mentorships in several countries across the continent, while gaining a better understanding of African markets.
“Unemployment is a challenge for many youth, and initiatives such as EmployMentor can bridge the skills gap between academia and the working world,” said Kunle Awosika, Microsoft Kenya country manager. “Through the 4Afrika Initiative, Microsoft aims to play an active role in the evolution of Africa from a labour-based economy to a knowledge economy, by empowering local innovation, up-skilling youth with 21st century ICT skills and providing Internet access.”
During the EmployMentor week, all participants will engage in exciting mock interview and business case challenges, coupled with financial-modelling training that will help them experience a real-world business pitch and interview scenario. This could also lead to an interview for a position at Microsoft. In addition, a mobile app development and guest speaker series will be included in the weeklong event. Skills training, content development and support will be provided through the recently launched Kenyan Employability Portal, Tukoworks and the Microsoft Virtual Academy during the EmployMentor week. The curriculum will be localised to ensure it is in line with the requirements in Kenya and complemented by the ACWICT’s Life Skills curriculum.
According to the United Nations Development Programme, youth unemployment rates in Kenya are several times higher than the rates among adults and particularly high in cities and among females. “There is a huge opportunity for women to fill the growing demand for ICT and business skills in Kenya, but many still face limited access to training and education,” Awosika said. Women are underrepresented in high-growth fields such as science, technology and engineering, key drivers of a country’s innovation, connectedness and competitiveness in global markets.
“When women are included in the mainstream economy, the spinoff effect is social uplift for their families and surrounding community,” said Olive Mugenda, vice chancellor of Kenyatta University. “All women mentees from Kenyatta University demonstrate a positive attitude, strong work ethic and passion to impact their community positively through business-oriented IT solutions. We are looking forward to what they will achieve in a few years’ time, and they will be ambassadors for more women who aspire to succeed in the business and IT fields.”
The ACWICT’s mission is to promote women’s access to and knowledge of ICT as tools for social, economic and political development by partnering with universities to source candidates, providing staff and space for the management of the mentor program, and assisting in content development. Mentees will be provided with job placement follow-up support from ACWICT. “The future of the ICT sector is exciting. These are unchartered waters open to creativity, innovation and entirely new ways of working, interacting and learning that should appeal to women and men alike,” said Constantine Obuya, executive director of ACWICT.
Microsoft BizSpark, an online platform providing tools, resources, networking and training opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs, will be connecting successful startup owners to mentors to help them create business plans. The EmployMentor participants will also be fielded as prospective talent for established BizSpark businesses.