Africa needs digital skills. But, as the World Economic Forum  (WEF) points out, not just in the technology sector. The need for digital skills training spans sector and industry, providing individuals and organisations with the tools required to overcome obstacles, refine processes and spark innovation. In Africa, digital skills development has the potential to open doors and redefine livelihoods and needs to become a priority for the public and private sectors alike. According to Mandla Mbonambi, CEO of Africonology, skills development is critical to putting the country firmly on the digital map and ensuring that
transformation is shared, and relevant.
"Digital skills are inherently valuable to the business," he adds. "Whether it's people leveraging digital to better manage admin, communication and problem solving; or companies driving digital to improve IT team capabilities and efficiencies, skills development in this arena has become critical to long-term success."
Africa is currently wrestling with a significant digital skills gap. The WEF report above highlighted that some level of digital capability will be required for around 55% of jobs in Kenya, 45% in Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, and Rwanda, and 25% in Mozambique. That's nearly 57 million jobs demanding digital skillsets by 2030 in just these five African countries, of which around two million will sit in ICT and e-commerce. This emphasises the importance of not locking skills development just into IT departments and teams but spreading the training and the skillsets across the entire business.
"Digital skills are not isolated to the technology geeks or IT departments," says Mbonambi. "This is a very limited view when you look at how digital has slipped into every part of life - commercial, personal, physical. By providing people with training that they can use to engage more effectively with systems and operational solutions, you're creating a thriving ecosystem that can adapt and change as markets demand."
Investment into skills development within the organisation is fast becoming as essential as investing in a healthcare plan or well-structured benefits package. Not only does this drive employee engagement and loyalty, but it ensures that your company always has talent on the boil, nurtured and developed in the right ways. This is not only relevant in terms of ensuring that you always give your people the opportunities they need, but it helps protect them at a time when talented people are taking the immense strain.
"People are experiencing severe burnout at rates that were previously unheard of before the pandemic," says Mbonambi. "They are overwhelmed and stressed, and they're struggling in a world that has moved online. They're working long hours and dealing with a different type of stress than what they're used to. Over the past year, companies have lost a lot of skilled people because they've opted into new lives and lifestyles after the complexities and stress of remote working. It's been frenetic, fast and pressured - and unsustainable."
This relentless drive to do more at speed is what's driving digital into every crevice of the business and the home. People are struggling to find balance, and to learn everything they need to stay ahead of the digital game. Organisations have to step in, they have to provide their people with relevant skills development so that their employees feel empowered to achieve their KPIs and regain a measure of enjoyment in their roles.
"This also means putting effort into supporting the IT teams and their skills development," says Mbonambi. "IT has never been more relevant, more important, more critical. People in these roles are also struggling to stay ahead of the relentless evolution of technology and capability, plus they're under pressure to do more, faster, with less, while ensuring that everything is secure and locked tight against the ongoing cyber incursion."
IT teams need more skills. They need more people. And these people can come from HR, PR, content, marketing, admin, and accounting - any area of the business. If companies can look past the digital doors that mark the entrance to IT and into the hallways that are populated with potential talent, then they are looking at a gold mine.
"Invest into your IT teams, but also invest into the digital skills development across all your teams," concludes Mbonambi. "You never know where your next developer will come from unless you give everyone an opportunity to grow. This is the future, a future where digital is the key to unlocking a sustainable business and skills development is the only way to turn it."