The $130 Billion opportunity in digital skills in Sub-Saharan Africa


IFC in cooperation with L.E.K. Consulting released a new report showing the demand for digital skills in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow at a faster rate than in other markets.

The report estimates that 230 million jobs in Sub-Saharan Africa will require digital skills by 2030, presenting investors and education operators with an estimated $130 billion opportunity to train the future workforce in digital skills. IFC launched the report, ‘Digital Skills in Sub-Saharan Africa: Spotlight on Ghana’, at the group’s office in Accra, Ghana. Nearly $4 billion of the opportunity in digital skills will be in Ghana.

The report sheds light on the crucial need for digital skills as a driver of economic growth and competitiveness across sectors in the region—from agriculture to services. The demand for digital skills is evolving and presents opportunities for different stakeholders to play a role, particularly the private sector.

The report finds that the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”—an era characterized by rapid breakthroughs in technology-related fields—is reshaping the skills that will be required for the future workforce. The study finds that digital skills are central, alongside “21st century” social and behavioural skills, like critical thinking and communication.

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Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Vice President for Middle East and Africa, said, “Approaches to learning should be reconsidered so people in emerging markets can work and live well in an era of rapid technological change. The digital skills sector in Sub-Saharan Africa is ripe for private sector investment and participation.”

Ashwin Assomull, Partner in L.E.K.’s Global Education practice, said, “The report demonstrates innovative ways private education providers and investors to tap into the massive training opportunity over the next decade. A relentless focus on student outcomes and technology industry alignment is critical to the success of these programs.”

Respondents to a digital skills survey estimate that about half of jobs on the continent require some digital skills and note that demand for these skills will rise more quickly in Africa than in other regions. This demand is driven both by rapid economic growth in Africa—home to three of the world’s top five fastest-growing economies—as well as the digitization and automation of its agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors.

Although digital skills are perceived among the top seven skills for the future of the global workforce, the study finds that these skills are under supplied globally and most particularly in Africa.The study finds that supply of digitally-skilled labor in Sub-Saharan Africa and Ghana must increase to meet anticipated market needs or Africa’s economies will falter. Around 80 percent of industry participants interviewed believe that an under supply in digital skills would hamper expected economic growth, and nearly 20 percent of Ghanaian companies surveyed recruit only internationally for digital skills, largely because they cannot find skilled local talent.

The study concludes with a call to action: the private sector must play a pivotal role in addressing the challenges in digital skills. This challenge can be met through proven models with potential to scale and to offer lessons to other innovative providers willing to make inroads in the space. Digital skills must also be integrated throughout education, including at a foundational level in schools, with the public sector playing a pivotal role. Teaching digital skills is not only a business opportunity, but a chance to reconceive the future of work across the continent.

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