The theme of the 27th World Economic Forum (WEF) For Africa held in Durban, South Africa was “Achieving Inclusive Growth Through Responsive and Responsible Leadership”. The event that took place from 3rd to 5th May attracted more than 1000 participants, who explored challenges and opportunities into ways that could be used to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth for Africa.
One of the key topics that was addressed was that Africa needs to integrate fully into the global digital economy by closing the deficit of ICT skills. To prove the severity of the problem, a report by the WEF asserts that, “every year for the next three decades, 15-20 million increasingly well educated young people are expected to join the African workforce but employers across the region identify skills gap as a major constraint to their ability to compete in the global economy”
Barclays Africa hosted a panel to discuss the skills required to make Africa more competitive for the global economy. Here are a few things that the panel discussed that you can immediately take up and apply to your own career.
Disruption of jobs by technology
The most common theme in the panel was that Africa needs to leverage its skill set by preparing for the future of work. Jobs in the region are becoming more intense in the use of digital technologies. Africa’s young people should be looking to skills driven by science and technology. We need skills to respond to significant advancements in robotics, autonomous transport, artificial intelligence, etc.
“Tech is transforming the way we live, we think that the internet can contribute 10% to Africa’s GDP in the next 25 years”
This implies that you need to get comfortable with using technology to grow your career and business because that is where the future is heading. Harness the future! Whatever line of work you do, you must master technology and make it your partner. Research the internet to bring you up to speed with best practices and technology innovations around the world. You cannot afford to be resistant to the changes happening because of technology. Explore new career fields like data science and align to the future in order to keep pace.
Rethinking work experience
“until you have a skill, you are not educated”. Unfortunately, there is a tendency for young people to focus on getting a university education without acquiring skills. To get the skills that you need, consider embracing vocational training. Unfortunately, vocational jobs are likely to be automated in the future so we still need to embrace technology.
The panel agreed that there is need for experiential learning to give young people more exposure. Too many young Africans are hungry for experiences that no one will ever give them. This means that you have to quit thinking that someone will give you a career that gives you the exposure you want. Instead, position yourself to get experience in the areas you want to build a career in.
The need for soft skills
In a study carried out by the World Economic Forum, workers who successfully combine mathematical and interpersonal skills in the knowledge-based economies of the future should find many rewarding and lucrative opportunities. Soft skills will be more important than ever. They stem from how you relate with people around you and they include: critical thinking, perseverance, emotional intelligence, self confidence, accepting criticism, self awareness, resilience, negotiation, etc. Thankfully, you can improve your soft skills with a little work. With increasing automation of jobs, soft skills will be the biggest differentiator among workers. Build yours to remain competitive.
Life long learning
We need to learn how to learn. If you go to university to learn something today, by the time you finish, it’s obsolete. Because you can’t predict all the changes that lay ahead in the future of work, you have to develop a culture of life long learning. Since the education curriculum is not preparing young people for the future of work, you need to take matters into your won hands. Improve your digital skills. Take up self directed learning so that you are responsible for how your learning occurs rather than depending on teachers or lecturers.
If you would like to explore the subject even further, WEF launched a report on the same topic, The Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa: Preparing the Region for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.