Bridging Africa’s 21st Century talent gap

If talent is indeed universal, what role does technology play in producing a new generation of talented and self taught young Africans?

Today’s developed nations attained their economic status by riding the wave of industrialization that began with the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century, when workers moved from farms to factories. According to conventional wisdom, the path for today’s developing nations to grow their economies and increase per-capita-income is to follow a similar pattern of industrialization.

That’s why most economic development programs for developing countries involve large capital projects and luring large multinational corporations to build factories on their soil. In fact, countries like China, South Korea, and Brazil made significant economic gains in the second half of the 20th century by embracing industrialization.

However, in the 21st century, we are witnessing the shrinking of manufacturing jobs across the globe. Simply put, factories are becoming more productive while employing fewer people, and this trend will only continue to accelerate. While job losses are a sobering problem for developed nations, they present an existential crisis for developing countries that must now re-imagine their brighter futures. The appeal of cheap unskilled labor will continue to diminish going forward.

21st century jobs require 21st century skills.

However, not enough people in developing countries are getting a tertiary education. In Africa, there is a significant talent gap for 21st century jobs. For example, in South Africa, which has a relatively well-developed economy compared to other African countries, only 7% of 25–64 year olds have completed a tertiary education compared to 50% in the US (OECD data). Big chasms in the education of a country’s workforce do not bode well for the ability to compete in the 21st century.

But there is good news! The rise of coding boot camps is providing faster and more affordable ways of preparing young adults for 21st century jobs. Motivated students with access to a computer and the Internet can now learn 21st century skills and in many cases attain certification on completion. In the same way the advent of the cell phone allowed developing countries to leapfrog land line technologies, coding boot camps and online courses can provide a much needed opportunity to leapfrog traditional tertiary education.

This new approach to educating the populace does not come a moment too soon, and provides hope for developing the talent required for a brighter future Across the African continent.

About the Author

Hugh Molotsi is the founder and CEO of Ujama, a neighborhood ride sharing service for families. Hugh also advises and invests in startups and is an active practitioner and teacher of Lean Startup Methodologies. In 2015, Hugh concluded a 22-year career at Intuit where his last position was Engineering Fellow and Vice President of Innovation.

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