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WEF Africa 2017: Close skills gaps to prepare Africa’s workforce for tomorrow’s jobs


Retraining and upskilling the work force is set to be the major challenge facing Africa with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The World Economic Forum, which is hosting its Africa meeting in Durban in South Africa this week, said in a statement that 15-20 million increasingly well-educated young people are expected to join the African workforce every year for the next three decades.

“Employers across the region identify skills gaps as a major constraint to their ability to compete in the global economy,” WEF said. “In South Africa alone, 39% of core skills required across all jobs will be wholly different by 2020, while 41% of jobs in South Africa are susceptible to automation.”

According to WEF, with more than 60% of its population under the age of 25, sub-Saharan Africa was already the world’s youngest region and by 2030, it would be home to more than one-quarter of the world’s under-25 population.

“As this young population – the best-educated and globally connected the continent has ever had – enters the world of work, the region has a demographic opportunity. But the region can only leverage this opportunity by unlocking latent talent and preparing its people for the future of work.”

A new report launched by WEF aimed at serving as a practical guide for leaders from business, government, civil society and the education sector, and found that the region’s capacity to adapt to the requirements of future jobs left little space for complacency.

Key findings from the report, which included new data from LinkedIn, were:

— while it is predicted that 41% of all work activities in South Africa are susceptible to automation – as are 44% in Ethiopia, 46% in Nigeria and 52% in Kenya – it is likely moderated by comparatively low labour costs and offset by job creation. Despite this window of opportunity, the region’s capacity to adapt to further job disruption was a concern.

— employers across the region identified inadequately skilled workforces as a major constraint to their businesses, including 41% of firms in Tanzania and 30% in Kenya, while others said they felt less pressure (9% in South Africa and 6% in Nigeria). However, this pattern may worsen across the region in the future. In South Africa alone, 39% of core skills required across occupations will be wholly different by 2020.

— this skills instability often stemmed from the fact that many jobs in the region were becoming more intense in their use of digital technologies. Average ICT intensity of jobs in South Africa increased by 26% over the last decade, while 6.7% of all formal-sector employment in Ghana and 18.4% of all formal-sector employment in Kenya occurred in occupations with high ICT intensity.

— some of the most common types of higher-skilled employment on the continent included business analysts, school teachers and academics, commercial bankers, accountants, human resources, marketing and operations specialists, customer service specialists, advertising professionals, information technology workers and software and app developers, according to LinkedIn’s data.

“Across the continent, substantial potential exists for creating high-value-adding, formal-sector jobs in a number of areas. However, to realise this potential, closer dialogue between education providers and industry is needed to align and optimise the region’s demand and supply of skills,” said Nicolaas Kruger, CEO of MMI Holdings and Chair of the Africa Skills Initiative.

The Africa Skills Initiative is inviting businesses, in partnership with government, civil society, and the education and training sectors, to make quantifiable commitments to skill, upskill or reskill one million people by 2018 and five million people by 2020 in Africa, the Middle East and other regions.

“The data shows that, to prepare for the future of work, the region must expand its high-skilled talent pool by developing future-ready curricula, with a particular emphasis on STEM education, increase digital fluency and ICT literacy across the population, provide robust and respected technical and vocational education, and create a culture of life-long learning, including the provision of adult training and upskilling infrastructure,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of Education, Gender and Work and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum.

– African News Agency (ANA)