Helping African youth to embrace the digital revolution: The digital revolution gives African countries a chance to accelerate their economies, but governments must invest to give young people affordable access to the skills they need.

Author:Peck, Tim

Nelson Mandela famously said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

If you combine this thought with the concept of the fourth industrial revolution --the digital revolution--and the emerging youth of Africa, you can start to see the potential for massive positive change in the 54 countries of Africa.

However, achieving this potential does come with its own set of unique challenges. Firstly, the underpinning emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and security, are changing continuously. Secondly, users need fast and reliable access to the Internet.

That is why there needs to be effective collaboration between government, NGOs, the telecom industry, general industry, investors and donor organisations. All of them need to play their part. Governments, with the support of the other parties, should create clear enablement strategies which include both education for and application of digital technologies. Focus needs to be on the provision of sustainable real jobs for the growing workforce in the following key areas:

  1. Skills development to ensure that the workforce can fulfil the current needs of the job market. (Many technology dependent organisations cite a lack of relevant skills among applicants.)

  2. Innovation directed towards the industries that have the highest potential employment rates, with the aim of making these more productive and profitable.

  3. Entrepreneurship coupled with innovation to build the basis of long-term future growth and a broader more stable economy. This will be more successful if based on solving local challenges and needs.

  4. Development of "insourcing" co-operatives --allowing the digitally skilled labour force to deliver paid-for services to the parts of the world that have a shortage of such skills. This will allow the job market to grow faster than the organic growth of national GDP and ensure that skills will be available for the growth of local industry.

IBM has been in Africa since the 1920s and has partnered with governments both in...

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