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Africa’s growing – are you waiting for change?

September 3, 2014 • Opinion

Meryl Malcomess

Meryl Malcomess, SYSPRO Marketing Director.

It’s an exciting time to be in Africa. According to the Institute of Security Studies, Southern Africa (excluding South Africa) is projected to have the highest growth rate of any region in the world over the next 15-20 years. Technology is undoubtedly a key enabler of this growth and a driving force behind the continent’s overall development trajectory.

Speaking at the recent DASIK (Developing and Strengthening Industry-driven Knowledge-transfer between developing countries) conference hosted by SYSPRO in Johannesburg, business technology consultant Danie Schoeman shared some truly eye-opening statistics that demonstrate the pivotal role the Internet and technology will play in the economic growth and development of Africa.

African dawn

Africa’s current Internet penetration rate is sitting at 16% while the Internet contributes $18 billion to the continent’s GDP. Using figures gathered by the World Bank and McKinsey Global Institute, Schoeman says these numbers are set to skyrocket to 50% and $300 billion respectively by 2035. Annual e-commerce sales are also expected to exceed $75 billion by that time.

Africa is on the rise in every possible area. According to Schoeman, by 2020 the collective African GDP will be $2.6 trillion, compared to $2.182 trillion last year. With 1.1. billion people of working age in Africa by 2040, consumer spending is projected to reach $1.4 trillion in 2020 and 50% of the population will be urbanised by 2030.

By 2020 it is also expected that there will be a total of 68 cities in Africa with a population over 1 million people – 18 of those cities emerging in the next six years. This will spur on Internet penetration and usage as 25% of urban residents are online daily in Africa, while 21% spend more than 10 hours per week online and 54% own Internet-capable devices.

Addressing the skills gap

Several new markets are emerging together with this substantial growth, but there is a clear shortage when it comes to the skills needed to fill the jobs in these markets. The war for talent is becoming increasingly heated because the local talent pool is simply not meeting the challenge of producing the required skills at the required rate.

Many multinational corporations are committed to building a significant presence in Africa, but the skills gap means that jobs are not being filled fast enough. There is a staggering skills growth requirement that the continent currently cannot keep up with.

It is for this reason that local companies like SYSPRO are involved in fostering and supporting skills development programmes. It is our responsibility to trigger the necessary change and nurture the next generation of skilled workers, thinkers and visionaries that we need.

SYSPRO was recently named runner-up in the Corporate Educator of the Year category at SAPICS’s 2014 SCM Education Excellence Awards. It also has a partnership with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to encourage the use of new technologies to meet the growing demand for IT skills in South Africa and deliver training across Africa at a fraction of the usual cost by harnessing mobile technology.

Smart investment

Through SYSPRO’s alliances with universities like NMMU and KeMU in Kenya, we are making inroads when it comes to familiarising students with new technologies and equipping them with practical knowledge to ensure a smooth transition into the working world. We have also made the SYSPRO ERP platform available for post-graduate research purposes. In return we have gained access to the latest thinking in IT, scientific methods and research tools – creating a completely symbiotic relationship.

We must increase momentum at tertiary institutions and equally in businesses to actively address the skills shortage on our continent. For local businesses, it is our responsibility to ensure future generations of Africans are equipped with the right ICT knowledge and career guidance to support and propel the growth of the continent.

Technology companies must acknowledge the great long-term benefits that will be the result of increasing and improving the skills base in Africa from right now. To ride the African economic wave, companies must ensure they’re equipping themselves for the future by investing in skills development on the continent.

By Meryl Malcomess, SYSPRO Marketing Director

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