WASHINGTON — Preparing youth for the jobs of tomorrow remains a necessity in Africa, where many lack the digital knowledge and soft skills required to succeed. To address that shortfall, the African Development Bank hopes its latest Coding for Employment Program will render African youth more able to take on current and future jobs across the continent.
The AfDB digital skills training program launched earlier this month as a component of the wider Jobs for Youth in Africa flagship initiative, targeting information and communication technology, agriculture, and industrialization sectors as high potential for youth job inclusion, aiming to “equip 50 million youth with employable skills and create 25 million jobs.”
The EU-Africa Business Forum led fiery discussions about how to improve the quality of work for the next generation of African youth, who number above 200 million today.
While AfDB is widely recognized as the premier financial institution in Africa — and applauded for its advancements on road connectivity, increased access to energy, and the construction of hospitals — experts argue that the bank’s most tangible social impact will be investing in youth.
Digital innovations have the power to both solve the continent’s development challenges and generate new job opportunities for a youth population expected to surpass 830 million by 2050. However, as digitalization spreads quickly across sectors such as health and education, the gap may well widen between a rapidly growing workforce and the unemployed who don’t possess the necessary skills.
“What has already become clear with the fourth industrial revolution is that every job will require some sort of digital knowledge,” Uyoyo Edosio, Coding for Employment Program task manager, told Devex.
“Africa is consuming but often lagging behind,” she said.
Although studies estimate that more than 420 million Africans have mobile phones, it has been shown that 70 percent of users still lack access to the internet, only using mobile phones for dialing, without sufficient digital knowledge for more complex functions.
Over the next 10 years, the AfDB’s Coding for Employment Program seeks to change these statistics, creating 9 million jobs by training more than 230,000 youth aged 16 to 35 in areas of digital literacy. An additional anticipated outcome is that equipped youth will create their own businesses, causing a ripple effect where these local businesses create jobs and expose more youth to digital skills through mentorship and peer learning.
A two-pronged approach will not only train youth but invest in digital infrastructure by building technology parks and roughly 130 ICT centers of excellence across the continent.
Pilot programs have already begun in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Kenya, and Rwanda.
To date, feasibility studies in Nigeria and Kenya have been conducted with training programs finalized with volunteers from local universities — the recruitment of local country program managers is also underway.
Uyoyo told Devex that anglophone countries — Nigeria, Kenya, and Rwanda — will begin recruiting participants in August, with a focus on underserved populations and young women. Francophone countries, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, will likely begin scouting students starting October.
AfDB has also set a commitment to match the salary of anyone who secures an internship following their coding training, Uyoyo told Devex.
“There should be no reason why a student does not take a job because they cannot survive with the cushion that the bank is providing them — we hope [this] will also incentivize the general market to take on these youth,” she continued.
“In short, the thinking behind the program is to raise a generation of tech-enabled youth who are not just able to use computers — but programmers, graphic designers, youth who have first-hand knowledge of ICT,” Uyoyo said.