Becoming Tech Relevant: 3 Important Digital Skills African Youths Should Build

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By Alkali Amana

As the world develops every day, the reliance on technology to solve problems and carry out activities increases. The level at which humanity resides at the moment resonates with Godfrey Reggio’s words when he said ‘it is not that we use technology, we live technology. Africa is at the frontline of global digital growth. It is no news that demand for digital and technological skills are increasing on the continent with the development of facilities to make businesses scale and improve profitability. According to the World Bank through the Digital Economy for Africa Initiative, Africa needs to think big on digital development. A proper outlook at the current incremental pace of economic and social advancement reveals that too many of Africa’s expanding youth population will be denied the opportunity to live up to their potential if denied digital technologies. When properly harnessed, the combination of youths and digital technologies will lead to unlocking new pathways for rapid economic growth, innovation, job creation and access to services.

The potential is enormous. A study by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) shows that by 2030, about 230 million jobs across the continent will require some level of digital skills. That translates to a potential for 650 million training opportunities and an estimated $130 billion market in Africa. COVID-19 has forced many businesses to go digital to survive, hence the need for these skills has only become more apparent in recent months. Preliminary findings from research by the IFC and the World Bank (through the Digital Development Program Trust Fund) on the Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Rwanda markets opens up the percentage of the level of digital skills required for these sub-Saharan countries by 2030. For Kenya, 50-55% of jobs need some level of digital skills; 35-45% in Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Rwanda; and 20-25% in Mozambique.

There are several digital skills today for youths to key in and become useful for the development of Africa. Digital Skills Global, a firm seeking to transform the digital competencies of corporate workforces, lists out top digital skills that are needed in today’s tech world. Here are 4 skills African youths can key into as the world advances Post Covid:

  1. Programming, Web and App Development:

At the core of digital technology is programming for the web and applications; and, it serves as one of the most in-demand skills today. Generally, Computer programmers provide valuable services across economic sectors, creating code for software and computer applications and programs. The field offers the opportunity to work in information technology, academia, government service, and medical fields — with additional career opportunities as independent and contract workers.

A report by IFC and Google notes that against Africa’s 1.2 billion population, there are only about 700,000 professional developers. More than half of this number reside in five African markets: Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa. This exposes other economies to a shortage that needs to be filled as soon as possible from Africa’s youthful pool.

  1. Digital Marketing:

In today’s world, digital marketers are becoming the life of businesses through advertising delivered through digital channels such as search engines, websites, social media, email and mobile apps. Statistics from Think with Google Insights Marketing show that 48 percent of consumers start their inquiries for products on search engines, while 33 percent look to brand websites and 26 percent search within mobile applications.  To promote their products and services tech companies will look to digital marketing. Some In-demand skills for Digital Marketers include:

  • Digital marketing tools
  • Analytics tools
  • Content marketing
  1. Data Science and Data Analytics

The need for data science and analysis comes with helping companies make sense of huge amounts of data that can be immensely valuable to them. Data Scientists are in demand by employers across the world. For instance, the job search platform, Glassdoor constantly feature Data Scientists in their Best Jobs Listing. Not only is Data Science an excellent career path for professionals in the digital age, but demand far outweighs supply, making Data Scientists highly employable.

A recent McKinsey report showed that “The United States alone faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical expertise and 1.5 million managers with skills to make decisions based on the analysis of big data.” As data science becomes a minimum requirement for more and more manager level jobs, learning data science will help you position yourself ahead of the curve. Individuals who enter into this field will be pioneers for Africa going into the future of data science.

To achieve the potential that digital technology promises, Africa has to equip youths and create an enabling environment for them to exercise their knowledge. A vital step, to begin with, is to incorporate digital and tech skills into the African educational system. As Africa plans to take the center stage in the global economy, the words of Malcolm X ring out loud reminding the continent that ‘the future belongs to those who prepare for it today.’ Africa must plan for the future by encouraging its youths to take advantage of the opportunities created by technology.

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