Digital employment in Africa - what needs to be done
5 min read
Support digital education
The current educational system does little to prepare graduates for employment. With most curricula covering topics and subjects hardly applicable to the modern workplace, it is important that capable business entities take up the task of upskilling/ reskilling the youth as is required for gainful employment. There is a need to sufficiently assess skill levels and create digital environments for participants of such pragmatic training programs to gain access to insights and perspectives otherwise not sufficiently available. While it is true that there is a myriad of educational junctions that can be taken in the pursuit of digital skills, it is most beneficial to be curated and organized in an easy-to-access format and aligned into roadmaps that lead directly to industry requirements.
There are several unspoken blockades to the development of a successful digital career. Control of language, in its written and spoken form, is often a metric used to filter through candidate applications for technology sector positions. This is key as it is often the primary means of communicating for teams that are onsite, remote/ distributed or even hybrid in nature. As the quality of traditional education in Africa is currently uneven, there is the possibility that highly talented individuals might miss opportunities due to a lack of training with regard to their ability to communicate ideas and initiatives. Most technology companies pride themselves on innovation, and as this usually results in collective action, those who trigger such processes are often beckoned to express how they arrived at such insights - with the intent of initiating such mental processes with others likewise in the workplace. Communication is key for this; as a result, an enabling environment should be provided to offer access to such related skills.
Highlight career success
In the present day, the technology community prides itself on sharing news of growth and success - as it should be. There should be room to offer incentives for more reserved members of digital communities to express their growth stories; pulling those outside the border of technology employment closer to the opportunities available for newcomers and insiders. We are at an interesting time in human capital development: traditional benchmarks such as university degrees and over-priced professional qualifications no longer hold sway.
In light of how the current job market prides itself on the applicability of digital skills and the proficiency employees display in utilizing this within organizations, members of the technical and non-technical digital workforce should showcase their varying routes to job placement and have others more easily walk behind them. This will go a long way in simplifying processes that otherwise seem insurmountable and enable growth for the job-ready African youth population.
Bridge the employment gap
It is easy to acknowledge today that there is an awareness of the prevalence of technology job openings. The workforce sees people in digital employment grow through the ranks of startups faster than those with multiples of the career timeline in more traditional businesses. Yet still, many do not know how to even begin the journey. There should be more sensitization as to what is required to gain entry-level technology roles - and even more important, how to grow and scale individual careers. For those with a direction already in mind, there would be efficient avenues to test and validate communicated skillsets and save potential employers the cost of time and resources need to undertake such vetting processes.
Technology today is an interesting mix of business and digital processes. As a direct result, most technology-enabled businesses, have a need for personnel that possess a set of technical and non-technical working capabilities. The vehicle for value delivery might be a digital product or suite of services; in either case, there is a need both for those capable of engineering identified customer requirements and those who can support business functions essential to the execution of needs. The latter is often more accessible than the former. Hence, the need to relay the existence of these and other such out-of-the-way technical opportunities that have a ready demand in the market, and meet such with positively skilled digitally-aware professionals.
Encourage knowledge transfer
The power of professional networks can not be understated. Young job-seekers in Africa mostly reached maturity in an age of social media. As a result, the importance and relevance of networks are not lost on them. Yet, this needs to be taken a step further: with intentionality, young professionals should embrace the idea of offering value readily and learn by doing. This fundamental rhythm is key to commencing careers and enables the knowledge transfer necessary to ensure the sustainability of the African digital ecosystem. By actively practising identified skills, one can do better than lay idle and wait for opportunity; there is a whole continent to contribute to, and tapping into the power of an experienced professional network can greatly fuel one’s growth and learning trajectory.
There is an African proverb that goes thus, “What an elder sees sitting down, a youth cannot by standing on the top of a full-grown tree”. In this case, the elder needs not to be in a category defined by age, but rather by experience. There are different generations of technology professionals supporting the growth of the African continental economy at varying capacities. They have made mistakes and have had successes; rather than reinventing the wheel and burning the wick of time by doing what has been done, there are avenues for exponential growth present to those who can connect with such individuals. This need not be done in a superficial or entitled way - perhaps not even in a direct capacity. It is enough to study the ecosystem and connect to insights shared. Acting upon every action or piece of advice made available can be a tiring activity - in this, one ought to pick and select with prudence what is most relevant for the professional journey ahead. By being proactive in understanding how to learn from one’s unique job market, success is possible for job-ready African youth.