by Staff Writer

IBM, global tech giant, is investing about R945 million ($70 million) in building much-needed digital, cloud, and cognitive IT skills to help support a 21st-century workforce in Africa.

The initiative is known as “IBM Digital – Nation Africa” provides a cloud-based learning platform designed to provide free skills development programs.

The company is targeting to train up to 25 million African youths over five years, enabling digital competence and nurturing innovation in Africa.

The tech giant said that this is part of its global push to build the next generation of skills needed for “New Collar” careers.  “New Collar” is a term used by IBM to describe new kinds of careers that do not always require a four-year college degree but rather sought-after skills in cyber security, data science, artificial intelligence, cloud, and much more.

IBM Digital – Nation Africa is designed to help raise overall digital literacy, increase the number of skilled developers able to tap into cognitive engines and enable entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs grow businesses around the new solutions.

The program will be launched from IBM’s regional offices in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, and Egypt. This will enable the expansion of the initiative across the continent.

Africa has approximately 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. By 2040, the continent is expected to be home to the world’s largest labour force, with an estimated working-age population of 1 billion (*State of Education in Africa Report 2015).

Yet many African companies cite a local skills gap as one of the major bottlenecks to growth. In South Africa alone, where more than a quarter of the workforce is unemployed, businesses struggle to find appropriate skills, particularly in the IT field.

“IBM sees effective, high quality IT education as a key driver of economic vitality in Africa. Through access to open standards, best practices, IBM tools, and course materials, the broad scope of this initiative will enable vital skills development”, says Hamilton Ratshefola, country general manager for IBM South Africa.

“In order to find solutions to Africa’s challenges, industries across the spectrum need to enable the existing and future workforce to perform at the forefront of technologies such as cognitive and cloud computing. This will be the key to spurring economic growth.”

The initiative will provide access to thousands of resources, in English, free of charge, including:

  • Ready-to-use mobile apps
  • Guides – web guides, demonstrations, interactive simulations, video series, and articles
  • Online Assessments – A range of self-assessment tests to track the progress of individuals, together with industry recognised ‘Open Badges’ aligned to digital competencies. The badges can then be shared with prospective employers
  • Volunteers – Creation of a volunteer program to support and promote digital literacy within their communities
  • App Marketplace – Provision of a platform on which new applications can either be made freely available or sold

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