Njideka Harry is the President and Chief Executive Officer at the Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF). Here we speak to her about the upcoming World Economic Forum on Africa, taking place in Cape Town on 4th and 5th June.

What’s your solution for solving Africa’s skills crisis?

The educational system in Africa is not broken, it’s obsolete.  The success of the African continent in the 21st century – its wealth and welfare – will depend on the ideas and the skills of its population.  As the world becomes increasingly technological, the value of these assets will be determined by the effectiveness of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.  STEM education will help produce the flexible workforce needed to compete in a global marketplace while ensuring that our society continues to make fundamental discoveries.  Technology is omnipresent in today’s society; over 95 percent of jobs have a digital component.  If young people, in particular, are not adequately trained, they will have reduced access to employment which could have further ramifications for their social, economic and political inclusion.

Reducing youth unemployment will require decision makers from government, the private sector, academia, and civil society to collaborate on adapting academic curricula to better STEM, upskill students and workers with digital literacy and e-business skills, and create an enabling ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurship and small-business job creation.

What impact will technology have in getting Africans working?

The private and public sector should generate “IT-centric” jobs that produce information or knowledge for increasingly digitized business processes, across mobile platforms providing cloud-based services and citizen-centric applications that require new skills.  Technology has the potential to impact every aspect of the job market including better matching of jobs across all sectors, facilitating up-skilling, empowering entrepreneurs and providing actionable data to decision makers.  There is work to be done online, however, having a job in the real world is often the best way to learn new skills both job specific and more generalizable to other employees and work circumstances.  For online work to provide skills or training, a more intentional strategy to augment online work must accompany the work itself.

What other development challenges are you passionate about?

Of the seven billion people on earth, over six billion now have access to a working mobile device, meaning that mobile technology is now common in areas where women are underserved and educational opportunities are limited.  How people, especially women, can achieve financial inclusion by leveraging mobile technology.  Financial exclusion contributes to the stark socio-economic divide that exists in economies today.  Nearly 2.2 billion people or 62% of the population living in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East are financially excluded.  Africa alone has over 230 million unbanked households.  The mobile phone is playing a vital role in ensuring a greater reach of these financial inclusion programs.

What is the coolest innovation you have seen recently?

3D printing and related technologies have the ability to democratize innovation. Knowing that anyone, anywhere can be empowered to imagine, create/model and print any item at all is an incredible advancement.  Young people can now create the future they want to see with access to these types of technologies and create micro-factories that will aid the creation of sustainable livelihoods for their communities. Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) introduced 3D printing as part of our 3D Africa program in Nigeria. Learn more at www.3dafrica.org

If you could see one outcome achieved at the World Economic Forum meeting, what would it be?

Action – deeper engagements from private, public and civil society.  Let’s develop more partnerships, make deeper investments to sustain the continent’s 5% growth and most importantly, let’s tell our own story.

This WEF Africa Leader series conversation was first published in Business Report in association with WEF. Follow WEF Africa coverage on Twitter #AF15 or #IndyAF15.

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Author: Njideka Harry is the President and Chief Executive Officer at the Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF), Nigeria.

Image: A cityscape of Cape Town in South Africa is shown. REUTERS/Euroluftbild.de.