Posted by: Mteto Nyati, General Manager-MEA Emerging Regions, Microsoft
The talent and potential of Africa’s youth should throb to the fast beat of the continent’s growth. But the opportunity gap and digital divide still prevents many of the 200 million youths on the continent, aged between 15 and 24, from reaching their full potential. I’ve seen how access to technology can be the key to unlocking possibilities and helping Africa’s youth become the continent’s biggest asset.
During South Africa’s Youth Month, I visited Doasho High School in rural Limpopo. This year, the school expects at least eight distinctions from their final-year Physical Science students, with the help of the Microsoft 4Afrika Limpopo TV white spaces programme. This project is providing five schools with low-cost, high-speed white spaces broadband. It is also providing classrooms with 7-inch tablets, to help students collaborate, access learning material, complete online assessments and enter virtual laboratories that bring their lessons to life. With the help of master teachers who have undergone training on teaching with technology, these students will leave the school equipped with critical thinking and the ability to collaborate and better solve problems – 21st Century skills that are highly sought after in the workplace.
As Africa’s economy diversifies from a labour-based to a knowledge-based economy, it is imperative that the youth have the skills necessary to compete in and lead this transition. Careers requiring skills in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) are in hot demand and with a very high earning potential. Young nerds, for example, who were once seen as odd for spending so much time behind their computer screens, are now the popular
That’s why, in the spirit of Youth Month, Microsoft and Sci-Bono Discovery Centre teamed up to host a free, three-day “Week of Code” coding workshop, to introduce school-leavers and current pupils to the world of coding and help them discover the wealth of opportunities available to them in the sector. As Anele Masiza, a coder from the Johannesburg Microsoft AppFactory says: “Technology offers us this platform. We can use it to say: ‘Look at Africa the way we see it – the way we tell it’. It can change lives.”
Also in Youth Month, we celebrated the graduation of 499 students from our Student2Business (S2B) partnership with the Development Bank of South Africa, which plans to train and absorb 3 000 unemployed youngsters over the next three years. These youngsters have no shortage of talent, but many graduates do not have the immediate work experience in the desired skill-set to secure jobs. Companies, on the other hand, face shortages of the right skills. Programmes like S2B help close this gap, providing a roadmap for employment.
Africa’s youth are full of great ideas, but many stop at the ‘idea stage’, leaving their ideas vulnerable to exploitation. That’s why last month we launched the Microsoft 4Afrika Intellectual Property (IP) Hub in Nairobi, which provides innovators with the tools and resources to protect and commercialise their ideas. The first step is to register their idea with a local IP authority and then secure proof of ownership – something the Hub helps to do.
At Microsoft, our promise to help bridge the gaps for our youth is unwavering – and it goes beyond Youth Month. Young Africans are the future of this continent and when plugged into technology, their potential gets a whole lot brighter. Our ask of youth is to keep on shining, keep an open mind, and believe in yourselves as ‘solutioneurs’. Don’t wait for a problem in your community to be solved by someone else. Think about doing it yourself, make money from it and create a brighter future in Africa.