My visit to South Africa during National Science Week has sparked quite the feeling of nostalgia in me. From driving through the streets of my childhood in Cape Town, to the customer meetings that fill my schedule, I can’t help but see the immense acceleration of this beautiful nation at every turn.
In some respects, South African businesses are similar to those of other emerging economies, taking full advantage of the opportunity to leapfrog developed nations and empower a whole new workforce generation thanks in part to technology.
Not burdened by legacy systems and a ‘we’ve always done it that way’ attitude, smart businesses squarely focus on the latest and greatest of innovations to propel them into the future. A modern twist to William Shakespeare’s 17th century line, “the world is your oyster.”
Collaboration is key
If the past 25 years are any indication, these next 25 hold incredible growth prospects for emerging economies like South Africa. By 2040, it’s estimated that Africa’s working-age population will double to one billion, exceeding that of China and India.
Another staggering estimate? Less than one percent of African children leave school with basic coding skills, all the while government, the private sector and non-profit companies are struggling to fill positions for people holding this very skill set.
What’s the answer? I suggest that there is no answer without collaboration. With collaboration and partnership between the public and private sectors, aided by governments and supported by today’s available technology innovations, there is great potential to dramatically impact education to underserved children worldwide. In many countries around the world, this evolution into the digital age has been embraced and schools have made technology fundamental to how they teach and to how children learn. However, in many nations, digital education and technology-fueled learning isn’t accessible for all.
Closing the gap
This cavernous gap between the education that South African children are receiving and the employment the market needs could be viewed as a problem. Instead, I believe it is an opportunity. Outside the classroom, Africa as a whole has embraced technology at a staggering rate. A few eye-opening facts:
- 360 million smart phone users in Africa by 2025
- 100 million active users on Facebook in Africa each month
- 40% of African businesses are in the planning stages of a big data project
- 31% of all Africans live in 25kms of fiber node
There is no doubt that Africa has embraced the digital economy, giving it the distinction of being the fastest growing digital consumer market on the planet — supported by the youngest and largest population – with 122 million people to be added to the workforce by 2020.