[Column] Edouard Docteur: Skills transfer and capability can continue to help Africa grow
The coronavirus pandemic caused a seismic shift globally and tested the ability of different companies to cope and transition into the new normal. It has further urged businesses and employees to take a step closer towards the digital workspace and those companies that are succeeding are those which have the ability to quickly adapt to the new social distancing demands. What allowed the companies that managed to wade their way through the trouble to set themselves apart, from those that didn’t, was the extent to which they had prepared themselves. This preparation came from strengthening their capabilities through capability-building exercises and mechanisms that grow both the organization and its staff.
Capability building is the process of developing and strengthening the skills, abilities, processes, and resources that organizations need to survive, adapt and thrive in a fast-changing world. It can simply be defined as the ability to absorb change effectively. In addition to companies building their own abilities to adapt to change and continuing to thrive, there are companies that assist individuals and other entities to build their own capabilities. This is done through skill-sharing programs and skill transfers where an entity with the technology and know-how creates the environment to enable those who seek to obtain this capability, knowledge, and skills for improvement to succeed. There are examples of companies that have already initiated projects to assist in capability building, such as Global Voice Group (GVG), a global provider of ICT, Big Data, and RegTech solutions for governments and regulatory bodies.
As the corporate world continues to evolve, and social impact continues to grow in importance, capability building is becoming a key facet of any organization. Gone are the days when a company was solely focused on maximizing its abilities to meet its bottom line – be it profit or the like. The impact that companies have on the communities they operate in, and the effect they have on those working for them, is becoming a stronger consideration. They are therefore striving to make sure that they promote social empowerment so as to have a lasting impact beyond the financial assistance they may be able to provide.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has taken the world by storm and it is forcing everyone to be prepared for it. The African continent, with its youthful population, is actively attempting to catch up and prepare itself to take full advantage of it and prosper. The challenges in the implementation of strategic plan and clear framework for the emergence of technological and digital professions is a key factor in this. According to data from the African Development Bank (AfDB), less than 25% of African higher education students are studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related courses. That leaves a huge gap, or brain drain, within the technology sector since there are not enough trained professionals operating on the continent – as those that do study these courses tend to work abroad. Many countries are still struggling to offer training, due to funding, equipment, logistics, and trainers availability complications.
According to the United Nations World Population Prospects, over 60% of Africa’s population is currently under 25, with Africa containing 19% of the global population of 15- to 24-year-olds. By 2035, sub-Saharan Africa will have a working population larger than the entire rest of the world combined. In contrast, other workforces in the world are aging. Africa must train its growing youth to meet the ever-increasing demands of a more qualified and international labour market, to foster its growth.
Since there are not many avenues for the public sector to offer training and other capability building exercises, the onus falls on those within the private sector to do what they can to contribute. That is why companies operating on the continent are constantly starting initiatives to achieve this goal. Until African governments invests in education systems that better integrates ICT skills, private initiatives shall continue to multiply.
For example, GVG has chosen to pioneer Digital Training Centres in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. A transversal innovation aimed at further boosting its onsite training capabilities with the most advanced technological equipment and training teams. This pioneer initiative places GVG at the forefront of knowledge-transfer innovation, with the installation of digital Zoom rooms to promote digital training initiatives that help close the social and cross-border gap in the post-Covid era.
One goal that must firmly be kept in mind is ensuring that these capability building exercises are equitably distributed across the continent. There is a disparity in terms of how close different regions are to being able to take advantage of any skill transfers and capability building exercises. In East Africa – starting with Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – the respective governments have made strong attempts to develop policies and make investments that boost the education of engineers. Similar policies are also being explored in other parts of the continent to ensure their population is ripe and ready to take advantage of these opportunities.
Capability building is therefore a prerogative of both the public and private sector. As the private sector continues to develop and execute their initiatives, their efforts must be matched by the public sector in terms of enacting the right policies. If all these things are done, the continent will be able to thrive.
Edouard Docteur is the Director of Operations at Global Voice Group (GVG).