Posted by Warren La Fleur
Senior Business Development Manager, Microsoft East and Southern Africa
Namibia recently held its first-ever National Conference on Education at which the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Hage Geingob, called upon the private sector to engage and invest in education as a means to combat the skills-shortage and unemployment challenges facing the country. Geingob went on to note that ‘education is too important to be left to the Ministry alone as education is a great liberator and equalizer and has the potential to open doors to success.’ (Source: Namibian Sun)
This is a world view that we share at Microsoft – the belief that government and industry need to work together more than ever towards shared priorities for sustainable growth, as well as to develop thriving and competitive knowledge economies.
In fact, just last month, we opened the doors at the very first Microsoft IT Academy in Namibia. I’m excited about this, as were all those who attended the official ceremony at the Polytechnic of Namibia Centre of Entrepreneurial Development (CED). The fact that Microsoft has already established thousands of IT Academies like this one across the world does not detract from its significance – because for Namibia, one Academy like this one has the potential to make a big difference to the local economy. With an unemployment rate of over 50 percent, Namibia is in desperate need of skilled citizens. And it’s worth highlighting that in order for its economy to thrive, not just any skills will suffice. True, in any country there is a whole spectrum of jobs that need to be filled, but the fact remains: those countries which lack a developed ICT infrastructure and the human resources to support it can’t compete on the global stage, and are unable to utilize the technologies that have the potential to drive increased productivity and prosperity. The rising dependence of businesses on IT has meant that it is now critical that a good portion of a country’s human resources are made up of skilled IT professionals.
While everybody knows how vital education is, creating sustainable and high quality skills development programs is no mean feat. And a further challenge: the rapidly changing nature of the ICT industry and the importance of keeping up to date with trends make it even more difficult to ensure a consistently high quality standard of education for this sector. That’s why it often requires collaboration between several parties, each bringing their unique skills to the table in a quest to develop something greater than what each could achieve working in isolation. Public-private partnerships are a good example of this, and have become critical in fostering the development of robust and sustainable business landscapes, particularly in developing nations. We’ve pointed before to Mauritius as an example of a country that has made great strides in successfully leveraging these sorts of partnerships. We hope to help bring this to Namibia as well, and are confident that the establishment of a Microsoft IT Academy to provide training on the most current technologies will be an important complement to the existing curriculum at the Polytechnic of Namibia, supplementing the good work they do with the very highest quality of IT skills development.
When one takes these factors into account, it is much easier to see the broader significance of the partnership we officially initiated between Microsoft, the Polytechnic and TaTe Group, representing not only a sustainable education program, but an opportunity to stimulate the business landscape and the local economy as a whole. It is important to remember how much has been achieved thanks to great partnerships: they are the facilitators of infinite possibility.