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Improve education to address ICT skills gap

Youth receive skills training at a Nokia centre.

Youth receive skills training at a Nokia centre.

Revising the whole education system, driving broader access to the Internet as a learning and information delivery mechanism, getting the youth online and trying to adapt learning programmes to market realities are some of the ways to address unemployment among young people.

This is the word from Brahim Ghribi, head of government relations of Middle East and Africa at Nokia. He believes SA and other African nations need to work on reviewing their education systems and help young people establish their own businesses to remove the dependency on government and industry.

"Technology is evolving much faster than the education system. Even high-tech companies always need to keep up with the changing technology environment and this is a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed," he says.

The Nokia exec believes the rate at which technology changes requires a joint effort between the public and private sectors to find ways to allow the education system to keep up.

Ghribi explains: "Opportunities are no longer limited to the traditional way of thinking that you go to school and on completion of your tertiary education find work at a company.

"I don't think our youth today are necessarily aware of all the possibilities and they should be prepared for these opportunities. We need to show the youth that there are opportunities outside of the traditional ways of working and we must prepare them for self-employment and entrepreneurship."

Thrashing unemployment

According to Stats SA, in the first quarter of 2017, youth unemployment rose by 1.6% to 38.6%.

This youth month, South African government officials have been tasked with visiting schools and hosting workshops across the country to encourage youth participation in ICT.

Addressing over 300 young people at the launch of the inaugural Youth in Science, Technology and Innovation Indaba earlier this month, science and technology minister Naledi Pandor said SA needs to become a "home of innovation".

Pandor called for a bigger push to create innovative opportunities for young people in the country.

"A country enhances its prosperity through investment in new ideas, new opportunities and new jobs. It is our local innovators and entrepreneurs who will ultimately create the millions of jobs that we need to grow an inclusive economy."

Ghribi agrees that young people in Africa must be given the opportunity to be innovative and be given a platform to not only expose their ideas and projects but also to find investors and financial support.

"In general, we have noticed that many young innovators require a set of tools or a dynamic set of support systems and mechanisms to help them even just to learn the basics. This includes guidance on how to pitch a brilliant idea to venture capital companies or investors, build a sound and scalable business model, and demonstrate a proof of concept on the ground and how to gain insight into the competition."

Ghribi notes governments need to play a role in creating a favourable environment and establish a comprehensive social strategy that puts the youth and, more particularly girls, at the heart of their plans.

"We know that most governments in Africa and in other parts of the world have national ICT plans. For the youth to truly benefit, these plans must go beyond the frontiers of telecommunications and touch every sector of the economy," he concludes.

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