Nearly 300 000 South Africans Acquired Digital Skills During COVID-19

Digital skills
Wireless Internet. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Microsoft on Tuesday announced it has helped nearly 300 000 in South Africa gain access to digital skills during COVID-19.  This is why the company is extending its commitment by launching new resources to help job-seekers and 250,000 companies make skills-based hire in 2021.

From laid-off factory workers to retail associates and truck drivers, millions of people turned to online learning courses from GitHub, LinkedIn and Microsoft during the pandemic to help prepare for and secure the most in-demand roles, including customer service, project management and data analysis.

The announcement builds on the company’s efforts to help people by extending through 2021 free LinkedIn Learning and Microsoft Learn courses and low-cost certifications that align to 10 of the most in-demand jobs. The next stage of the initiative sets a new foundation for a skills-based economy through a suite of new tools and platforms designed to connect skilled job seekers with employers.

“Extending access to these learning paths, skills and tools comes at a critical time for South Africa: a declining economy and unemployment remain a mounting and widespread challenge in the country,” says Lillian Barnard, Managing Director at Microsoft South Africa.

South Africa’s economy contracted by 7% in 2020. Unemployment also increased to 32.5%, with the number of unemployed rising from 6.5 million in the third quarter of the year to 7.2 million in the fourth quarter.

“This illustrates the critical need to accelerate economic recovery, especially for those hardest hit by the impact of the pandemic. Digital skills are the most effective way to drive this recovery because of the growing shift to digital technologies and increasing demand for people with digital skills,” says Barnard.

The value of digital skills is backed up by the success of Microsoft’s Global Skills Initiative so far, especially in South Africa. In addition to the nearly 300 000 engaged learners reached, strategic partnerships with non-profits like Afrika Tikkun as part of the initiative have also yielded success: in October last year, Microsoft South Africa provided a $150 000 (over R2.5 million) grant to the youth development NPO.

“It is becoming ever more critical to reimagine how people learn and apply new skills that will equip them for the workplace of the future – and it is a priority for Microsoft to create opportunities that will enable and empower unemployed South Africans by providing them with the relevant digital skills needed to secure future-ready jobs,” says Barnard.

Individuals interested in accessing these critical digital skills can learn more on the Microsoft microsite.

All of the resources for the Global Skills Initiative are also available at



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