IBM has announced a US$70 million initiative to provide free digital skills training for 25 million African youth over five years, in a bid to create a tech-savvy workforce and nurture innovation on the continent.
The ‘IBM Digital – Nation Africa’ initiative will see free skills training provided over a cloud-based platform; offering a range of programmes, from basic IT literacy to highly sought-after advanced IT skills, including social engagement, digital privacy, and cyber protection.
Advanced users will be able to explore career-oriented IT topics including programming, cybersecurity, data science and agile methodologies; as well as business skills like critical thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
IBM said the initiative aims to raise overall digital literacy, increase the number of skilled developers able to tap into cognitive engines, and enable entrepreneurs to grow businesses around new solutions.
“IBM sees effective, high quality IT education as a key driver of economic vitality in Africa. Through access to open standards, best practices, IBM tools, and course materials, the broad scope of this initiative will enable vital skills development,” says Hamilton Ratshefola, country general manager for IBM South Africa.
“In order to find solutions to Africa’s challenges, industries across the spectrum need to enable the existing and future workforce to perform at the forefront of technologies such as cognitive and cloud computing. This will be the key to spurring economic growth.”
Users will be able to access thousands of resources – in English – including mobile apps, web guides, demonstrations, interactive simulations, videos, online assessments, volunteer mentors, and there will also be an app marketplace.
The platform will be based on IBM’s artificially intelligent system Watson, and as such will adapt and learn. It will review the multiple interactions the education initiative will have with students, to help direct them to the right courses and help IBM refine the courses to better adapt the material for the needs of the users.
It will also collect anonymous data from users to further improve the service, and create information to help students better locate relevant courses for them.
IBM says it aims to equip 25 million Africans with digital skills over five years through the programme. The initiative will be launched from IBM’s regional offices in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, and Egypt – with a view to enabling expansion across the continent.
The initiative is also supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which will work with governments across Africa to extend the programme throughout the continent, while it will also collaborate on opportunities for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills delivery, certification, and accreditation.
Tapping into African Diaspora
By: Nchimunya Muvwende (Photo: ADN)
In a famous quote, an author penned down the words “No matter where you go, always remember the road that will lead you home.” There are many Africans that left their countries in search of green pastures in the diaspora but it seems that they have become so comfortable with developing the already advanced countries and do not seem to remember their roots. While foreign investors are rushing to invest in the opportunities present in Africa, very few foreign based Africans do the same but rather focus on helping family members through remittances that have no sustainable impact. This status quo is not helpful and there is a need to harness a working relationship between nations and their people that live abroad in order to have inclusive development.
Harnessing diaspora resources
Many African countries are highly indebted and much of this debt arises from the ambitious development projects that governments are undertaking to improve the livelihoods of their people. Most projects cost more money than countries can manage to mobilize domestically and so, the countries are forced to depend on external aid and loans that are sometimes tied to adverse conditions.
On the flip side, there are many diaspora based Africans who have raised enough resources which when invested back in their countries, the rising debt crises could be mitigated. To do this, there is a need to provide specific incentives for the foreign based Africans so as to attract their resources to be invested in their home countries. Doing so will come with many benefits such as reduced dependency on borrowing, money remaining within countries hence stabilizing exchange rates, employment creation, economic growth and basically improved wellbeing of the people. It should be noted that no one will prioritise the development of Africa except its people regardless of where they are based and so, measures need to be taken to engage the children of the African soil.
Nations need to appeal to their people to remember those they left back home and think of ways of improving their livelihoods. It goes without saying that it is important to look strategically, systematically and critically at the diaspora’s role in the African development matrix and engage the huge reservoir of human and financial capital found in the large African diaspora.
Investment not remittances
When you give a child fish, they would still come back for more but if you build them a fish pond, teach them how to earn an income, the dependence syndrome reduces. There are many Africans that are in the diaspora that earn decent incomes and have to always remit funds to their families back home. However, this has created a continued financial dependence that has not necessarily improved livelihoods as it is not a sustainable source of income for the people back home.
The World Bank statistics show that remittances from the diaspora are estimated at about $87 billion annually and these amounts actually exceed official development assistance to Africa. Why always beg for help when Africans in the diaspora have more resources? It is time that the many Africans domiciled across the world begin to think of how they can reinvest their incomes into building businesses that will benefit not only their families but their countries as a whole. When critically analyzing cost factors, it would be cheaper to set up a business in an African country than in western countries.
This is because the cost of labor, availability of ready market and investment incentives are more pronounced in many African jurisdictions. It should be a source of concern that foreigners find it easier to invest in Africa than it is for the Africans who left the continent for greener pastures to think of taking back the resources to their roots. Imagine if every diaspora based African thought establishing at least one business in their home countries using mobilized resources and using the skills and knowledge gained, the development of Africa will be more pronounced. It is time to convert remittances into Foreign Direct Investments in order to grow African economies and deal with pressing challenges.
Most of the western countries have advanced skills and knowledge and attract the best minds around the world, inclusive of the many diaspora based Africans. There is a need to create effective diaspora networks that can help replicate, transfer and build the knowledge to actualize Africa’s potential. There is a need for building capacity in the management of businesses. Financial prudency, sourcing financing among other skills in the people in Africa and this is a role the African diaspora could take up when effectively engaged. In addition, they can help create opportunities for Africans to acquire skills and knowledge from the best schools and experts and use this to develop Africa. The networks could help create market linkages for the many products produced in their home countries.
The abundance of natural resources and wildlife make Africa a good and attractive tourist destination but the lack of effective advertisement and expensive costs have hindered reaping benefits. The African diaspora needs to be engaged more in marketing their home countries, and this could come at almost no cost because word of mouth advertisement is rated the best.
African Governments should not look at the African diaspora as deserters of their continent but rather as ambassadors that could be instrumental in dealing with the many challenges faced in their home countries. This calls for effective engagement with the African diaspora. In the same vein, the African diaspora should be reminded to remember the road that leads to their roots and that if they do not take part in uplifting the lives of their people, financial burdens will keep falling on them. Therefore, working on a win-win situation will be the best way to achieve a prosperous African continent.
Presidential Candidates Nigerians should not consider voting for in 2023 – Adaku Efuribe
Nigerians would be going to the polls in 2023 to elect a new president. I have written a lot of articles in the past regarding qualities of a great leader, but going by the understanding of most Nigerians, it would be more sensible to discuss the character of candidates not suitable for the job to enable us to separate the goat from the sheep so to say.
In solving mathematical equations, we sometimes use elimination methods to arrive at the correct answer. if we all know who we shouldn’t vote for, perhaps we could pinpoint who the possible suitable candidates are.
If we want to improve our economy and place Nigeria in its rightful place in world affairs then we must make conscious effort to ensure people with certain character flaws do not come anywhere close to the office of the president
Nigerians must not consider voting for candidates with the following character flaws/history.
Some of the candidates who have declared interest have been known to tell false tales to Nigerians in the past. A good example is a notorious fella who once made Nigerians doubt their cognitive ability. A few thought they actually suffered from short term amnesia. I wouldn’t tell you who to vote for but do not vote for liars, especially the one that woke up one morning shouting enough is enough! he went ahead to say he would be staging a protest against the present Government, he talked about a dream he had in which God revealed to him what he must do…Then the next day ..he said he wasn’t referring to this Government.
Anyone who has been involved in advance free fraud, misappropriation of public funds or lack of accountability must not be voted for if we want to move forward in this country. A leopard cannot change its spots. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
People with unaccountable wealth
Any candidate who cannot explain the source of their wealth is not to be trusted. Some people just spring up from nowhere to tell us God made them rich and no one can comprehend their source of wealth. We have had public servants who could not give account of the budget of their former office or keep an open book on how they spent public funds, such people will only continue to loot the treasury if given the opportunity.
Aspirants who do not believe in cutting down the cost of Governance
The GDP in Nigeria has depreciated over the last 8 years and part of the reason why we cannot come out of economic hardship is the cost of Governance. We spend a lot of money on the welfare of elected Government officials and legislators, more than most developed countries. There is definitely something wrong somewhere. Any candidate who does not believe in cutting down the cost of governance will only do one thing i.e.- continue to use public funds to fund their lavish lifestyle while the masses die of hunger and economic hardship.
Aspirants with no proven track record of effective leadership
Anyone who does not have any proven track record of leadership should not dream of becoming Nigeria’s next president. This country has sunk really low and we don’t have to operate anymore experiments. We don’t need the usual ‘I can do’ attitude. It’s either the proven experience is there or not.
Once again, the power would be placed in your hands to redecide the trajectory of our beloved country Nigeria. I intend to vote and my vote must count this time around. I know exactly who I will be voting for as I do not operate with sentiments. For us to see our country rise up again from the dunghill, I enjoin you all to have an open mind and consider the future of this country with any decision you make.
Article by Adaku Efuribe, Health Promotion Ambassador/Political analyst.
World War 3? Africa’s opportunity
It has often been said that when elephants are fighting, the grass is the one that suffers the most. And this statement is highly applicable to Africa in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Whereas the European countries are fighting a physical war, Africa’s fight against economic challenges such as poverty, unemployment, trade deficit and starvation is worsened by the conflict. Barely a fortnight into the conflict, global commodity prices have been on the rise and had adverse effects on import dependent countries. What lessons can African nations pick from the conflict and what low hanging opportunities can be explored?
Both Russia and Ukraine are important players in agricultural production, supplying about 30 percent of the world wheat and barley. In 2020 alone, African countries imported agricultural products worth about $6.9 billion from the two countries. However, the conflict has caused a disruption in the global supply chain of agricultural products. Essentially drying up exports as evidenced by the supply ban imposed by Ukraine, resulting in higher prices and stockpiles reducing. The global citizen report estimates that over 500 million people would be forced into hunger because of the food crisis arising from the conflict. There is a supply gap created which will lead to importers to seek alternatives markets. And therein lies the opportunity for African countries to stand out as global suppliers of these agricultural products and fill the gap.
Historically, Africans are farmers who have survived on agricultural production mostly at a micro level. Africa is blessed with arable land and good climatic conditions that support the growth of various products but productivity has remained low over the years. To take advantage of this situation calls for deliberate efforts to direct resources into growing the agricultural products in large quantities and benefit from the sales. To boost productivity faster, farmers could be incentivised through the use of outgrower schemes. Which are systems that link networks of unorganized smallholder farmers with domestic and international buyers. The identified agricultural market requires that both farmers and countries expand their capacities by investing in equipment and modernisation for higher output. The after effects of the crisis are projected to last for extended periods of time but for those countries that will emerge as gap fillers stand to benefit for a long time.
While it can be argued that globalisation and trade have been a key driver for growth and economic expansion for many nations, the gains have not been fairly distributed especially in Africa. Intra-Africa trade when compared to external trade accounts for a smaller percentage and hence the observed vulnerability of African trade to external factors. Imagine, while Africa is neither physically involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict nor imposing any sanctions on these countries. The effects of these two factors in derailing economic progress is worse in most African countries. Oil is a key input in various sectors of economies and the affordability and access to it has an impact on economic growth.
The crude oil prices are daily breaking record prices and for the many oil importing countries especially in Africa are at the receiving end of the spillover effects. Such as high cost of doing business and rising inflation which is detrimental to their economies. It defeats economic logic that African countries import oil from outside the continent, spending huge funds on transportation despite having neighbouring oil producing countries. The oil producing African countries should consider prioritising African nations for their exports to ensure that the continent is oil secure and the economies are thriving. Where possible, a differentiated preferential price which should be lower than the global price should be considered to ensure affordability and support to African nations.
The implementation of the Africa Continental free trade area, which has been envisioned as a game changer in African trade, has stalled with frequent postponements to actualisation. The current European conflict should be viewed as a catalyst for trade reorganisation in Africa and ACFTA implementation. This is because the crisis has indeed created a gap in trade and there is no guarantee that African nations could be prioritised in importing from the European countries that also have pressing needs. Self-sustenance in intra-Africa trade should be the target because, decades after independence, Africans cannot forever be dependants. Who are vulnerable to external factors which do not directly concern them.
While the conflict has devastating effects on some countries, it actually creates an opportunity for others. The identification of the comparative advantage that nations have in either current production or potential production is what should preoccupy those not participating in the physical fight. The current capacity in most African countries to manufacture products may not be able to compete with developed countries that have advanced technology. But in terms of primary produce, African nations have huge unexploited potentials.
Each country should introspect, organise its people and resources in targeting the global market. This is a matter of expanding what is already being produced and organising smaller businesses in bundling their produce. Working out strategies that will see individual countries to be a solution to a looming global crisis and benefit their nations in the process. If the opportunity is well taken and African nations stand out as solution providers, it could be a turning point for them to recover from indebtedness and economic challenges they have perpetually faced.
The looming crisis could just be a test to examine the capability of developing countries to switch from being dependents to being solution providers. The focus should not be on the current investment costs to be incurred. But rather the benefits that have potential to erase economic challenges when potential is exploited and opportunities seized.
By: Nchimunya Muvwende, Economist