Africa is standing before a small window of opportunity to grow future leaders equipped to take on a new era of industry. It will be our ability to come together and develop those leaders that will determine whether the continent succeeds or fails. The tough reality is that radical disruption to skills requirements in the workplace is headed Africa’s way as she edges towards the next industrial revolution.
Research presented at the World Economic Forum on Africa recently shows that in South Africa alone, 39% of the core skills required across industries will be completely different in three years’ time. Yet, the forum also brought forward unsettling statistics which paint a picture of a continent that is struggling to develop skills for today – never mind the ones for tomorrow. Indeed, WEF’s human capital Index reveals that sub-Saharan Africa currently captures just 55% of its human capital potential, when compared with the global average of 65%.
On the one hand, employers say an under-skilled workforce is holding their businesses back – as many as 41% of all firms in Tanzania and 30% in Kenya. But on the other hand, just 50% of Africa’s school-age children are enrolled in secondary school, and a startlingly low 7% in
tertiary education. The gap between the skills required and the ones administered is greater in Africa than in any other region in the world. Radical intervention is therefore needed.
It’s simple. If Africa fails to adequately improve the skills of her youth, she will be guilty of throwing away the future of an entire continent.
The good news is that every challenge also presents an opportunity. While the next industrial revolution will bring a massive wave of disruption, it also brings the promise of completely new job descriptions which will call on dynamic and exciting skills sets.
According to findings from WEF, our continent will need young individuals who can combine digital and stem skills with more traditional skill sets. Africa is going to need significant numbers ofdigital-mechanical engineers and business operations data analysts, to name a few.
How do we get there?
The million dollar question is: how do we grasp this golden opportunity to see our continent transition into a new industrial era? The answer lies in the stories that belong to remarkable young individuals like Ken Gitonga ( the administrator of the Samsung Engineering Academy in Nairobi).The academy, which was launched in Nairobi in 2014, revolutionizes traditional education by providing technical and vocational training for school learners, tertiary students and employed youth.
As will become evident from Ken’s story, the strength of the academy lies in its ability to provide talented individuals like him, not only with the skills they need to succeed, but also to invest back into their communities.
Ken has been making things from as young as six years old, when he built a toy car out of wire and wood. He would use sticks, wires and just about any empty household item he could find, to create his own’gadgets. As he didn’t have a lot of money growing up, these gadgets were his toys.
While Ken was given the opportunity to develop his considerable skills by attending the academy himself, he now uses his talents to help grow the skills of the next generation.
His analytical mind serves him well in this pursuit. Through his planning and logistical genius, he has created a bespoke work station programme that enables students to effectively learn about a particular electronic device. Every day, Ken prepares the course materials needed by the aacademy’s lecturers and helps deliver course content when needed.
His is just one of the many stories currently unfolding as Samsung continues to drive the development of skills-for-employability amongst the youth in Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria through the Engineering Academy Initiative.