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Demand for digital skills ‘skyrocketed in Africa during 2020’

Alfie Hamid, Regional Manager, Corporate Affairs at Cisco.
Alfie Hamid, Regional Manager, Corporate Affairs at Cisco.

The demand for digital skills in Africa has skyrocketed over the past year. In South Africa alone, the demand for jobs and skills in the Information Technology sector are at an estimated 28% demand rate, while the supply of these skills from the South African youth is only at 7.5%.

This disparity is impacting digital transformation throughout Africa. With digital transformation already a plight pre-COVID, this intensified in 2020, according to Cisco.

Alfie Hamid, Regional Manager, Corporate Affairs at Cisco, told ITWeb Africa that generally, there is a high general demand for digital literacy, as well as cybersecurity skill sets. However, from a business point of view, there is an increasing need for programming, cybersecurity, networking and DevNet skills.

Hamid said according to the International Finance Corporation (IFC, World Bank), by 2030 more than 230 million jobs will require digital skills in Africa.

“Given the realisations of the world-of-work and day-to-day living during COVID-19, everything that can be digital must move to digital. This make the 230 million look very small,” he added.

Hamid believes key reasons behind the disparity in supply and demand lies in the school system, as well as the lack of teachers, facilities and resources within schools that are directed at digital literacy teaching and learning.

Distance education the norm

The company stated that due to the pandemic, distance education became the norm for Networking Academy students as well.

Cisco made its Webex Collaboration platform available for all Networking Academy instructors and students.

“By using Webex, teachers have continued to deliver lectures to students virtually, so that learning never stops,” the company continued.

Cisco added that during 2020, the Cisco Networking Academy carried out several initiatives and as a result, over 275 thousand students and instructors acquired new digital skills:

Free remote instructor training programmes, which were made available across Africa. These courses included the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Cyber Operations and IT Essentials curricula. IT Essentials teaches computer hardware and software skills, whilst CCNA Cyber Operations focuses on cyber security concepts, monitoring, host-based analysis, network intrusion analysis, and security policies and procedures.

A partnership with the Department of Higher Education and Training to train TVET IT Computer Science Lecturers in IT Essentials (ITE) and CCNA 1. To date, the two programmes have involved more than 200 lecturers. In addition, the Networking Academy courseware has been officially integrated within the South Africa TVET curriculum and will be implemented from 2021, positively impacting an estimated 150,000 students annually.

A large-scale professional development initiative in Morocco for Networking Academy instructors: this program leverages the program’s “Programming Essentials in Python” course. By fall 2020, 327 instructors and 50 students had been trained by the Open EDG/Python Institute, in cooperation with Cisco Networking Academy.

Since 2020, Cisco Networking Academy is also offering a new course entitled DevNet Associate, which focuses on software development, offering students insights into the world of APIs (application programming interfaces) and infrastructure automation.

“We are working closely with several Ministries of Education across Africa to help them with updating their school and TVET curriculum to be in line with the demands of 4IR. Our South African TVETs are a great example, students exiting South African TVETs next year, will have highly sought-after skills,” Hamid continued.

He added: “With 2021 now upon us, and the pandemic continuing to accelerate digital transformation, Africa needs to ensure that the digital divide does not widen further. Education of the youth and the commitment of IT companies in advancing our continent’s IT skills will be key to achieving this.”

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