SA’s digital skills shortage is an untapped industry

By Vukani Mngxati – CEO of Accenture in Africa

Over the past few years, the world has seen a massive wave of digital advancement. How we engage with others has been permanently altered and digital innovation has become a real necessity. This has brought South Africa’s severe shortage of digital skills sharply into focus.

It’s a problem that could profoundly hamper our growth and progress on a global stage. A recent roundtable saw three experts Mteto Nyati – Chairman of Wazo Investments, Pieter de Villiers – CEO of Clickatell, and myself - all with our fingers on the digital pulse and an unwavering belief in South Africa’s potential to overcome our weaknesses and engage on the issue.

The future is digital – period. What is important is for us to start. The time to talk has ended. Yes, we need policy – but let us improve it as we go along. Let us get to the point where we can begin a journey.

In processing this complex issue, we must acknowledge a fundamental truth. South Africa has no shortage of young, curious people, and the digital world offers plenty of jobs to fill. We only need to enable a match.

De Villiers believes digital skills are a larger opportunity for SA than mining and agriculture ever were. He sees incredible talent and potential among our youthful population, who are eager, energetic, and digitally enabled. We need to believe in our youth and invest in their potential.

What has dawned on us is that digital skills are an industry. To build an industry, we must come together and create a world-class capability out of our young talent. We have the main ingredient - young people. Now it is up to us how we methodically create the industry.

A belief in the potential and taking a collective approach is undoubtedly a start. But where to begin? Our experts believe that schooling systems and traditional expectations need an overhaul. For a start, we need to inspire learners to take on subjects like mathematics and science towards pursuing the career paths that will grow our country’s digital development.

This is no task for a solo undertaking. This will take a national and determined push across the board. In addition to growing digital minds from school level, another priority is raising awareness around the importance of investing effort and funds to realise our digital goals.

Nyati believes that tapping this potential comes with a shift in mindset – that one has to have a clear view that you can create the future you want. He would like to see the creation of a different future where our young people are engaged, productive and able to start up their own businesses off the back of the technologies out there. It starts with being intentional and pulling together the resources we have.

Public-private sector collaboration is certainly key. The government needs to set the right type of governance for a strong foundation, while the private sector brings the means and tools to design a digital skills supply chain for the country and put SA on the map.

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