Africa’s Reskilling Crisis: Navigating the Path to Digital Readiness and Equitable Progress

Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) issued its Future of Jobs report, a comprehensive study that carries profound implications for educators, employers, and policymakers across the globe, with a particularly urgent message for Africa. As we stand at the intersection of technological advancement and workforce evolution, the reskilling crisis looms large, demanding immediate attention and collective action, writes Gavin Krugel, CEO of Digital Frontiers.

The WEF’s report reveals a landscape of transformative change, where emerging job roles are set to redefine the employment landscape in the coming years. By 2025, a staggering 97 million new jobs are projected to emerge, alongside the displacement of 85 million jobs due to automation. Central to this transition are positions such as data analysts and scientists, AI and machine learning specialists, and digital marketing and strategy professionals.

These figures reveal that the rapid pace of technological advancement will necessitate reskilling for half of the global workforce by 2025. The urgency is even more pronounced in Africa, where the growth of new roles like E-commerce Specialists, Digital Transformation Specialists, and Digital Marketing and Strategy Specialists is expected to lag behind global averages. The skills gap poses a further significant challenge — particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 70% of companies are set to encounter limitations due to this deficiency.

It’s clear from the report that there’s an urgent need to address this impending crisis. But how can we prepare for this seismic shift, and what role does education and training play in this transformative process?

Preparing for jobs of the future

According to a report from the Institute for the Future (IFTF), 85% of the jobs we will do in 2030 don’t yet exist. By today’s standards, 800 million youth stand ill-equipped to enter this basic future workforce. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If we act now, we can rapidly educate and reskill workers to align with the demands of evolving enterprises.

We also need to ask ourselves who will invent these jobs, and how can Africa take part in that transformative journey? At Digital Frontiers, we believe the answer lies in co-creating future skills, establishing ecosystems, and channelling efforts toward solving global challenges.  We’re already seeing it take place in new net-for-good industries emerging around green energy, the blue economy, with many more in the fields of healthcare, education, as well as sustainable agriculture and inclusive finance among others.

With this in mind, our vision for tomorrow is one in which 20% of all future jobs across the globe address our most pressing issues. It’s a lofty goal that demands a paradigm shift and bold collaboration.

The role African businesses and employers can play

African businesses and employers have a pivotal role to play in shaping, reskilling and upskilling efforts. The relentless march of AI demands an awakening to its potential and human capital implications. Africa must establish a robust digital public infrastructure to foster inclusive participation in local digital economies. This necessitates swift action to build human capital as the foundation for Africa’s engagement in an increasingly digital world.To realise this vision, Edtech must be nurtured, empowered, and localised. The challenge lies in funding and creating content that resonates with the local context. From gender sensitivity to tailored pedagogical strategies, Edtech must prioritise inclusivity and cultural relevance to maximise its impact. This includes meeting learners where they are at, with a greater emphasis needed on self-directed learning, experiential learning, and problem-based learning. Synchronous learning components and human connection within digital experiences are key to scaling success and creating meaningful change.

Key here will be the need for collaboration between African governments and businesses to ensure equitable distribution of technological progress. Establishing digital readiness requires foundational infrastructure ‘rails’ like digital identity, instant payment systems and public data exchange systems. As these frameworks emerge, applications and solutions will help to transform sectors from finance to healthcare.

Underpinning this innovation is the critical need for inclusivity. We must equip marginalised communities with the means to participate in the digital revolution. In this journey, education and upskilling are linchpins, and should be facilitated and scaled by Edtech.

To navigate Africa’s reskilling crisis, we must adopt a holistic approach, driving coordinated efforts between governments, businesses, educators, and communities. By cultivating a future-ready workforce, co-creating innovative solutions, and embracing inclusivity, we can propel Africa into a new era of prosperity, where technological progress is harnessed for the collective good.

About: Digital Frontiers

Established in 2015, Digital Frontiers (DF) is a not-for-profit capacity-building specialist headquartered in Africa and focused on building human capacity aligned with achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. To date, DF has built and implemented comprehensive capacity-building programmes that support the acceleration of global initiatives in digital financial services and financial inclusion, gender equality, digital health, and inclusive digital economies.

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Dané Brown

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