Building digital skills is essential to building an inclusive digital economy across the African continent. This was the takeaway from the 5th PASET Forum hosted in Kigali, Rwanda earlier this year, and the message of the World Bank Digital Economy for Africa (DE4A) initiative.
Sub-Saharan African countries are currently set to receive focused and technical assistance to prepare fully-operational and costed Digital Skills Country Action Plans. This effort will occur through financing from the Digital Development Program of the DE4A initiative, and these plans will help prioritize investment requirements, undertake regulatory and policy changes, and mobilize funding with a focus on the TVET and higher education levels. Countries currently part of the PASET regional initiatives, or preparing to partake in the initiatives, will benefit from these opportunities.
Did you know that Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest percentage of mobile money use in any region? Over the last 5 years, entrepreneurship ecosystems, through incubators and tech hubs, have grown 10-fold in Africa. But the lack of broad-based digital skills and a shortage of more advanced digital talent is holding back the rapid diffusion of digital technologies. The International Finance Corporation in its recent report estimates that intermediate digital skills will be most in demand in Africa, and advanced digital skills in some countries such as Ghana.
The importance of Digital Skills
Whether it is an employee in a trading company, a worker in a hotel or an agribusiness, a retailer or a nurse─ a strong majority of all future occupations will require the ability to use digital technologies.
Digital literacy is essential to ensuring the students are prepared for the jobs of the future, and it is important that students of all fields and background acquire intermediate to superior digital literacy skills. In this light, the World Bank Digital Skills Country Action Plan aims to operationalize how this can be achieved, including the consideration for online and rapid skilling programs.
Similarly, there is a pressing need to encourage advanced and highly-specialized digital skills in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) professions. Most engineering, computer science and computer science programs in Africa require foundational reforms to achieve this. However, this must be done in line with demand and the needs of industries and employers.
Other areas to be covered are enhancing the use of technology in higher education and TVET, a complex task that has encountered many challenges: the provision of high-speed broadband, building the digital capabilities of Ministries of Higher Education/TVET/Education, and those of regulatory agencies.
The uncoordinated actions which focused on providing digital devices and connectivity hubs via siloed means have led to limited results. In general, plans for ICT in education have ignored the need for coordination across different areas and for addressing faculty development and support, as well as incentives.
The technical assistance will cover the following :
- A detailed guidebook to help assess demand, set goals, plan for different strategies, identify indicators and undertake costing;
- Planning and costing templates;
- Workshops to launch the plan preparation in selected countries; and
- Peer review of the Country Action Plans.