New initiatives and skills platforms put together by technology companies promise to match a global shortage of talent with a massive need for jobs in Africa.
A partnership between Amazon Web Services (AWS) and a continent-wide leadership initiative, the African Leadership Group (ALG), aims to match at least 2-million young Africans to global work opportunities this decade.
Called “The Room”, the platform is intended to create “a scalable solution for connecting highly skilled, diverse global talent to in-demand technical careers”.
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The Room provides customised career advancement through mentorship, relationships with global leaders, opportunities and continued learning.
While ALG has connected undiscovered talent to career opportunities for the past 15 years, its approach has relied on manual processes, which cannot be efficiently scaled.
ALG’s mission “to transform Africa by identifying, training and connecting top talent to employment opportunity” is seen as closely aligned with a core AWS focus on skills development.
Consequently, ALG will leverage AWS technology to expand its reach across Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe, to match skills to career opportunities, while contributing to more diverse technology teams.
The skills include software engineering, cloud computing, data science, product management, cybersecurity, machine learning and virtual reality.
Samsung SA last month provided an update of its ICT-driven initiatives aimed at empowering previously disadvantaged South Africans. In 2019, it launched a R280m Equity Equivalent Investment Programme, aimed at capacity development to tackle unemployment, inequality and poverty.
For 2022, it has earmarked R15m under the programme for technician training, and a further R14.5m for bursaries and learnerships.
It has also introduced a Samsung App factory learnership programme to bridge the gap between tertiary learning and market requirements, by preparing participants for employment as software developers.
Samsung said 233 unemployed young people benefited from its software development programme over the past 30 months.
“Samsung can play a vital role in creating meaningful employment and strengthening South Africa’s economy, through the power of innovative technologies and a focused long-term vision,” said Hlubi Shivanda, director of business innovation and corporate affairs at Samsung SA.
Last week, Microsoft announced initiatives to accelerate the growth of 10,000 African start-ups. It will give them access to its new global Founders Hub, a self-service hub that provides start-ups with a wide range of resources, including access to mentors, content geared to skills training, tools, and marketing and business support.
It is also creating partnerships to provide start-ups with access to markets, technical skills and funding opportunities, including $500m (R7.4bn) in potential funding from a network of venture capital investors.
“Investments into Africa’s start-up ecosystem are growing at an exciting pace,” said Wael Elkabbany, MD of the recently established Microsoft Africa Transformation Office.
“According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, there are more than 640 active tech hubs across Africa, accelerating innovation and creating employment, particularly among the youth. However, the African start-up market represents less than 1% of total investments worldwide.
“Our ambition is to see an explosion of local invention that will contribute positively, not just to Africa’s digital economy, but to global society.”
Meanwhile, this month, to mark International Women’s Day, Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, committed R15.3m in charitable funding to support programmes helping women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, as part of a series of new initiatives aimed at supporting women-owned businesses.
“Research shows that 58% of small and medium-sized business entrepreneurs in Africa are women,” said Mojolaoluwa Aderemi-Makinde, head of brand and reputation for sub-Saharan Africa at Google.
“Google is providing free tools to support women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and has launched an intensive programme to drive the discovery of women-owned businesses.”
The tools include Primer, an app-based skills building platform that allows business owners to access a series of free, custom-designed lessons. Google.org had previously announced 34 funding recipients of its Impact Challenge for Women and Girls, awarding $1m each to gender equity-focused organisations “to create a more equitable economic reality for women and girls”.
Africa’s skills potential is massive. According to George Asamani, business development leader for Africa at the Project Management Institute, it is expected that the continent will produce about 30-million graduates a year by 2050.
Fred Swaniker, founder and CEO of ALG, said during the launch of The Room at the AWS Re:invent conference in Las Vegas in the US in December: “We see a tremendous opportunity to address the global technology skills shortage while enhancing diversity. As the rest of the world ages, Africa remains the youngest continent. We aim to unlock this large pool of untapped talent by identifying and training millions of young Africans in critical areas of technology. We will also invite extraordinary talent from around the globe to join our talent community in The Room.”
The Room was originally developed on the AWS cloud platform, but a meeting with former AWS CEO Andy Jassy — now heading up Amazon — turned ALG from a client to a partner, with a mutual interest in global skills development.
“What he saw was the potential for tech to really be a force for greater good,” Swaniker said.
“It’s a chance to showcase how technology can unlock opportunities. We eventually want to build a community of 10- to 20-million of the most extraordinary doers in the world. To start from Africa, but do it globally.”