Unemployment in South Africa remains a major issue, currently sitting at 26.50 percent, while the country’s youth unemployment is currently at a staggering 50.9 percent. Despite this, many technology companies continue to cite skills shortages as one of their biggest challenges. According to Brahim Ghribi, Head of Government Relations of Middle East & Africa at Nokia, this is not limited to developing countries and there is a dire need to close the gap between the need for and the availability of skilled individuals in the workforce.
According to Brahim Ghribi, Head of Government Relations of Middle East & Africa at Nokia, this is not limited to developing countries and there is a dire need to close the gap between the need for and the availability of skilled individuals in the workforce.
Ghribi says work needs to be done to identify the root cause of this to determine why there is a gap. “Is it because the youth quit school early and therefore lack the adequate training and skills required, or is there a mismatch between what they are being taught at school and the job market reality? As far as I’m concerned, in many cases, it is a combination of the two and this issue is not unique to South Africa. We need an urgent revision of the whole education system, drive broader access to the internet as an information and learning delivery mechanism, get the youth online and try to adapt learning added Ghribi.
He says that the rate at which technology changes requires a joint effort between the public and private sectors to find ways to allow the education system to keep up with this change. He highlighted the importance of showing the youth the many opportunities there are as often they are not aware of it.
Ghribi says young people in Africa must be given the opportunity to be innovative and be given a platform to not only expose their ideas and projects but also to find investors and financial support.
Gender diversity, particularly in the ICT sector, also needs to be a priority. “We at Nokia believe that although a lot is already being done to encourage women to enter the ICT sector, it requires an ongoing effort. As a company, we strive to have a gender balance that reflects the world around us and we support several programmes to achieve this.” The company runs a project called Strong Her, which is an employee network that promotes gender diversity. “Companies need to start internally and then, also, focus on promoting diversity externally. They should also look for the skills at a much broader scale and promote women in ICT, by getting them on board and training them with the right skills so that they have an equal opportunity.”
Nokia has also been supporting initiatives such as CodeBus Africa project, and global scale project Green Light for Girls which highlights their focus on playing their role in the change and helping African countries combat the unemployment through education.
He says the responsibility to drive this change lies with both governments and private companies. “We all have a role to play and need to join hands in terms of shaping the future of technology. This must not just be done for the sake of it, but to transform the human experience.”
Ghribi says governments need to play a role in creating a favourable environment and lay out a comprehensive social strategy that puts the youth and, more particularly girls, at the heart of their plans. “We know that most governments in Africa and in other parts of the world have national ICT plans. For the youth to truly benefit, these plans must go beyond the frontiers of telecommunications and touch every sector of the economy.”