German software company SAP launched Africa Code Week yesterday in Cape Town, promising to introduce 1.5 million African youth to digital skills this year.
First introduced in 2015, Africa Code Week is a continent-wide digital skills development initiative that has engaged more than four million youth across 37 African countries to date.
"Preparing our youth for this uncertain future requires new thinking around issues of education and skills development," says Cathy Smith, MD of SAP Africa.
Smith launched Africa Code Week on the eve of this year's World Economic Forum Africa, saying: "In Africa, where the youth population – those aged between 15 and 24 – is expected to more than double to 450 million by 2055, there is an urgent need to radically rethink how we prepare our youth to be active participants in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR)."
Africa Code Week this year comes as new research by the International Finance Corporation shows demand for digital skills in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow at a faster rate than in other markets.
The report estimates 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.
The study 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.
Sunil Geness, director of government affairs and corporate social responsibility lead at SAP Africa, says: "We currently have more than 130 public, private and non-profit partners who have joined forces to build local trainer capacity through dedicated train-the-trainer sessions, accelerate female participation in the digital economy and transform local curricula to ensure our youth are skilled and prepared for active participation in the 4IR.
"By working closely with our customers and academic partners, we create a four-way win. Youth gain opportunities for employment, customers and partners find brilliant talent, SAP strengthens its ecosystem, and participating countries benefit in their fight against youth unemployment. We have also extended our support to entrepreneurs, innovators and startups through our SAP Next-Gen programme."
Television personality Faith Mangope, who is ambassador for SAP's flagship coding programme, tell ITWeb that 4IR is around and she will help "spread awareness of the specialised (digital) skills".
"I want to make sure the message resonates. This needs to be articulated right down to schools, especially in providing context in the skills arena on why coding is important."
Mangope says her efforts will be spread across the continent, not only in SA.
The software company also announced the launch of the Cape Town edition of the Start-up Guide, a global entrepreneurial handbook series designed to connect the local start-up community.
For this project, SAP's Next-Gen initiative partnered with the Start-up Guide in 2018 to connect start-ups with accelerator programmes, matchmaking services and corporate innovation initiatives.
Africa regional director at SAP Next-Gen Kwena Mabotja says: "The partnership between SAP Next-Gen and Start-up Guide inspires entrepreneurial communities around the world to innovate with purpose.
"We share a joint mission to foster collaboration and provide access to resources for businesses that leverage technology for profit and purpose."