SA arm of SAS catalyses pan-African data science and analytics skills programmes

SA becomes springboard for continent-wide skills development.

Johannesburg, 09 May 2016
Read time 3min 10sec
Murray de Villiers of SAS has taken a personal interest in the development of analytical skills across Africa.
Murray de Villiers of SAS has taken a personal interest in the development of analytical skills across Africa.

SAS South Africa has been the catalyst for data science and analytics skills development programmes in South Africa, in the rest of Africa, and even on a global scale, says Murray de Villiers, manager of the academic program for Middle-East, Africa and Turkey at SAS Institute.

"Having noted the shortfall of high-end analytics skills, particularly with regard to sophisticated SAS analytics tools in use by major enterprises around the world, SAS Institute has taken the initiative to drive skills development in partnership with academic institutions and industry bodies."

This skills development strategy resulted in the first global SAS Data Science and Advanced Analytics Forum held at Cary, North Caroline, in the USA last year, with the second forum to be staged in London in June. This event will be planned out of South Africa, the USA and London, with De Villiers serving as an agenda coordinator. This year, SAS has partnered with North West University and the Kenya School of Monetary Studies (KSMS) in Nairobi to launch a Master's Degree in Data Sciences for bankers in East Africa.

The one-year course, which will admit its first students at the beginning of 2017, is the first of a series of similar programmes to be implemented across Middle East and Africa.

De Villiers says an advanced analytics skills shortfall in the field of data science of between 40% and 60%, or around 190,000 people, is expected in the US alone by 2018. "We estimate this shortfall is far higher in South Africa and the rest of Africa.

"The dire need for advanced analytics practitioners informed our engagement with the likes of North West University, which has become recognised as the leading institution for postgraduate advanced analytics training in the country. In fact, the roughly 40 master's students emerging from NWU annually all have lucrative jobs before they graduate," says De Villiers.

SAS and NWU are now extending this successful programme to Kenya, where the Central Bank of Kenya trains East African bankers at its Kenyan School of Monetary Studies (KSMS). With curriculum guidance from NWU and seed funding, $1 million in software, training materials and support from SAS, the KSMS is about to embark on a "train the trainers" programme that will include training on 14 SAS-related modules . The programme will be delivered in a modular fashion throughout 2016, accepting its first master's students at the start of 2017.

Talks are also under way to launch similar courses in Saudi Arabia and at the Sabanci University in Turkey, says De Villiers.

He believes that enterprise has a pressing need for professionals with advanced analytics skills, as well as an understanding of business needs. "Therefore, SAS goes to great lengths to ensure that the course content also delivers the soft skills and experience students need to be immediately valuable to enterprise. Our NWU model, for example, includes three months of work on a project at an industry partner to give students the experience they need. With such a severe shortfall in advanced analytics skills, and such good opportunities for students embarking on careers in this field, I'm making it my personal crusade to bring universities and industry closer together to ensure the training at tertiary level meets the needs of business," he says.

For more on SAS's role in developing data scientists, go to or the SAS Academy for Data Science:

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