Cisco held the first Sub-Saharan Africa Cisco Connect on 19 to 21 May at Sun City, South Africa. During the keynote address, the company detailed its commitment to the digitization of Africa’s communities, businesses, and governments through several initiatives for skills and talent development, innovation and job creation.
The technology leader announced that it is bringing solutions to try to solve some of Africa’s problems in order to compete on a global stage.
“Digital advancement is not just about connectivity and automation, we need to use global expertise and we need innovation to create an inclusive environment and a society where everybody can benefit and participate. Where businesses can compete effectively and citizens can prosper. That is the vision that Cisco sees for Africa, said David Meads, Vice President, Middle East and Africa, Cisco.
“Governments in Africa are grappling with how to diversify their economies away from being reliant on natural resources and how to build knowledge-based economies. Private sector companies are figuring out if digitization and technology are a threat or an opportunity,” he continued.
Through the Networking Academy (NetAcad), Cisco has trained half a billion people across the globe and in Africa, the company trained 700 000 people since they opened the Networking Academy.
“Nearly one-third of the Networking Academy participates are female and that is something we are proud of. Today it’s my pleasure to announce our intention to take that and accelerate beyond all expectation. Our commitment is that by 2025 we will train an additional 1 million students across Africa through our Networking Academy programme. Of those 1 million people we expect 125 000 to be experts in cybersecurity. There are many more jobs in that field today and we are doing our best to try and fulfil that demand,” said Meads.
NetAcad provides students with hands-on digital skills to prepare them for careers in the digital economy. Through the initiative, Cisco intends to support the creation of Digital Learning Hubs in public libraries, accessible by the local population.
“It is our commitment to try and drive innovation but also drive the capacity that we need to consume this technology,” said Meads.
Connecting trained students with potential employers
In April 2019, Cisco launched a talent bridge platform in South Africa in an attempt to match supply, the skilled talent pool coming from NetAcad, with demand, that is entry-level jobs available in Cisco’s partner ecosystem.
Explaining how the portal work, Meads said “The talent bridge is a platform where students who are graduating from the Networking Academy and alumni who have participated in the Academy over the years can come, register who they are, their capabilities and qualifications and potential employers who are looking for those skills can use the portal to find experts who have the certification, the experience, and who are available.”
“We hope that by doing this we will not only create a set of skills but we will create hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he added.
Solutions for tech SMEs
In 2018 Cisco launched the first Edge Centre as a platform to foster innovation and digital entrepreneurship in Africa. EDGE stands for Experience, Design, GTM (Go to Market) and Earn. The objective is to share business knowledge, help develop small and medium businesses in the digital age, speed up their entry to market and, as a result, create new jobs for the local economy.
“The Edge Centre is a place where we put the latest and greatest Cisco technology and invite small businesses to come and leverage the technologies. They then start to build solutions using our technologies and start to solve real problems that are relevant to the communities, the countries and cities that you live in, said Meads.”
Cisco opened the first Cisco EDGE Incubation Centre in Pretoria, South Africa and has since expanded the offering, opening incubation centres in Dube Trade Port, KZN and the University of Nairobi in Kenya. The company plans to establish similar centres in Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria and additional centres in South Africa, including the Eastern Cape (East London Industrial Development Zone) and Gauteng (Tshimologong) in South Africa.
“As we see this grow, we will scale to the rest of Africa, We will open more centres in West Africa and in North Africa. This will not only promote innovation, but it will also create jobs and help to bring economic prosperity,” Meads said.
Africa Repair and Refresh Centre
Cisco will be opening a number of repair and refresh centres across Africa during the next part of the year. The centre will carry out testing, quality engineering, fulfilment, process management and procurement, as well as inventory control, serving Cisco’s customers in Africa.
The technology giant will bring global capability but leverage local talent to run and operate these centres. “It is taking pre-owned equipment, refreshing it and making it more accessible for businesses at a more affordable price.”We are going to be opening a number of repair centres across Africa, the intention is to initially open these across South Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia,” said Meads.
Partnering with government
The Country Digitization Acceleration Programme was coined five years ago by Cisco as a concept to partner with countries at the highest level of government to accelarate digital economy, healthcare, smart cities and education to use as a mechanism to create jobs and bring global economic competitiveness.
“We have created partnerships in over 20 countries that are sponsored at the highest level of government, sponsored within Cisco by our Chairman and CEO,” said Meads.
In December 2018, Cisco launched the first CDA partnership in Egypt, the Chairman and CEO of Cisco signed an agreement with the President of Egypt.
“We believe that technology is the bridge to overcoming some of the greatest challenges in the world,” concluded Meads.