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Skills development will boost Africa’s competitiveness

May 22, 2013 • Features

This month saw heads of states and leaders of industries from all over Africa coming together to discuss the future of the African continent at the World Economic Forum (WEF), which took place in Cape Town from 08 – 10 May 2013.

While the opportunities and potential that exists for Africa is undeniable, there are still clear bottlenecks (image: Shutterstock)

A key factor highlighted over this conference was Africa’s lack of competitiveness and the fact that the world’s least competitive economies exist in Africa. Yet, if we consider the continent’s innovation and entrepreneurship – how can this be true?

While the opportunities and potential that exists for Africa is undeniable, there are still clear bottlenecks – such as the lack or slow pace of skills development – which is directly hindering our progress and growth. We currently have approximately 829 800 unfilled positions for high-skilled workers across different sectors in South Africa and with our unemployment rate at 25.2% for Q1 2013, an increase of 0.3% from the previous quarter, it becomes clear that those who are unemployed still lack the necessary skills to fill existing positions.

The good news is that there is a solution! What we require is business and Government to work together and not in isolation – where joint efforts will result in more undertaken to improve the skills development landscape. Businesses have the in-house expertise and capacity to train students and graduates straight from university through various in-house programmes, while Government has the funding to support such and other initiatives.

As operators in different, specific industries, businesses will have a better understanding of what is feasible, however, they may require the finance assistance to support their programmes – and this is where government comes in – funding internship programmes.

Dariel Solutions, for example, understands the need for skills development and how it can contribute to growth of the industry and has initiated internship programmes where, students straight out of university are placed through our various internal programmes to give them crucial training on the software industry and, as importantly, to increase the skills within our sector.

Through this we have realised that what pupils are being taught in universities has little practical relevance to what is currently occurring within the software industry – creating a gap between the theory and the actual industry requirements. Dariel Solutions saw this as an opportunity to devise an incentive structure for high achievers where the top student is awarded a prize in recognition of their commitment and performance. We feel that it’s important for businesses to get involved in the skills and talent that is being grown in our universities from the ground-up and if more businesses took this approach, more can be achieved in a shorter space of time.

While progress cannot be achieved overnight it’s imperative that the right resources and efforts are invested to improving skills development shortages. We’re an innovative and entrepreneurial continent that has the ability to be competitive with other markets, but lack of skills investment will result in the decline of the continent’s growth, direct foreign investments and increase further outsourcing, ultimately hindering the continent’s overall competitiveness – surely this needs to be addressed.

Image via Shutterstock

Malcolm Rabson, Managing Director at Dariel Solutions

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