Jobs and the Future of Work

The importance of improving digital literacy of young Africans

Robin Meyerhoff
Writer, SAP
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Last week the United Nations adopted its sustainable development goals (SDGs or Global Goals), which will shape political agendas and policy through 2030. Looking through the ambitious 17 goals one key mandate is clear: leave no one behind. Ending poverty and ensuring equitable education are at the top of the agenda.

It is fitting therefore, that this week marks the beginning of Africa Code Week, a continent-wide initiative that aims to spread digital literacy to 20,000 young people across the continent.

From October 1st to 10th, online sessions and hundreds of free coding workshops will be organized for young people aged 8 to 24 in more than 17 countries including Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia and Uganda.

The World Bank expects 11 million youth to enter the African labor market every year over the next decade. In the next 25 years, Africa’s working-age population will approximately double to one billion, exceeding that of China and India.

However, although about 122 million people will join the workforce by 2020, African companies are scrambling to fill positions with employees who possess the right digital skills.  Estimates claim less than one percent of African children leave school with basic coding skills.

Africa Code Week is part of SAP’s effort to bridge that skills gap and drive sustainable growth in Africa. SAP already invests in SAP Skills for Africa, which provides additional business and IT training to recent university graduates. Africa Code Week extends that commitment to primary and secondary students, creating a full cycle of IT skills support for young people in Africa.

“What’s unique about Africa Code Week is that we’re sparking a grass roots movement that brings together a wide variety of public and private organizations,” said Rebecca Nicholson, head of SAP corporate social responsibility for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “This is not a one-time initiative. Because we’ve trained educators based across Africa – and put much of the coursework online – this is something that will a multiplier effect for years to come.”

Africa Code Week is spearheaded by SAP and supported by a fast growing network of government, educational organizations, NGOs, and software companies across the globe. Partners include, AMPION, the Galway Education Centre, the Cape Town Science Centre and the King Baudouin Foundation. Google also joined Africa Code Week as a strategic partner to support local organizers of computer science and coding activities all over Africa.

In preparation for Africa Code Week, SAP recruited its own IT experts as volunteers to train parents, teachers and government staff, giving them the tools they need to bring coding knowledge to children and youth. Since the launch of the program in June this year, they have already trained over 1,500 educators.

The bulk of the Africa Code Week sessions will take place in cities over the next ten days. SAP has also teamed up with AMPION (a non-profit organization supporting IT entrepreneurs in Africa) and local governments to run mobile workshops from buses in rural parts of Rwanda and South Africa. These mobile workshops will teach students using the Scratch, a learning system developed by the MIT Media Lab. This “playful learning platform” helps make coding easy and fun for students, and they will walk away with coding basics.

Digitization is fostering job creation across the African continent. By engaging students early and often, SAP and collaborators hope to create a workforce that can continue to fuel growth for Africa.

This article is published in collaboration with SAP Community Network. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Robin Meyerhoff is a writer at SAP Community Network.

Image: A Somali man browses the internet on his mobile phone at a beach. REUTERS/Feisal Omar. 

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Related topics:
Jobs and the Future of WorkIndustries in DepthFourth Industrial RevolutionGeographies in DepthEducation and Skills
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