ICT to boost youth employment

Policy makers urged to re-dynamise job markets in the region with ICT
Omobola Johnson, minister of Communication Technology of Nigeria.
Omobola Johnson, minister of Communication Technology of Nigeria.

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Middle East policy makers and the private sector have been urged to promote employment in the emerging digital economy sector in the Middle East, according to a report presented during the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa 2015.

With 40 million under-unemployed youth and 27 million not in education, employment, or training, the Middle East and North Africa has the highest rate of youth unemployment in the world at 27.2%, according to the World Economic Forum, presenting a serious problem for a region where more than half the 369 million inhabitants are under 25.

Demonstrating the growing demand for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) jobs, the Middle East’s ICT industry value is set to reach $173 billion in 2015, more than double the value in 2010, and projected to create nearly 4.4 million jobs by 2020, according to research firm Strategy&.

However, enabling youth employment will require decision makers from government, the private sector, academia, and civil society to collaborate on adapting academic curricula to better integrate ICT learning, up-skill students and workers with ICT skills, and create an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and small-business job creation, says the report.

The World Economic Forum’s Council of Global Migration is looking to solve ICT skills shortages in Africa through deploying mobile workforces to tackle specific projects, as Karl Cox, vice-chair of the WEF Global Advisory Council on Migration, explained to CommsMEA during the preparation meeting at the end of the year.

Cox said that companies are facing some challenges when hiring people with the right skills in the ICT sector, and in order to improve this shortage of knowledge, the Council of Global Migration is developing solutions to offer talents when needed. “There has been a long history of talent shortages in the ICT sector. There are two ways to face it. The first one is by trying to build the skills in individual countries where the shortages have been felt. The other approach is what the Migration Council is doing by saying that skills can be mobile. If skills are needed in a country where they are not available, we can bring people in on a short term basis to meet the immediate needs that the country requires,” he added.

Omobola Johnson, minister of Communication Technology of Nigeria, shared this concern with CommsMEA and focused on the situation in Nigeria. “There is a lack of talent across the spectrum, from the labour workers to the engineers. What we are doing with a number of companies is offering different courses to train Nigerians. We are working with them to develop these skills to see how they can help to train more Nigerians. Particular on the more advance engineering areas. We do have a capacity problem and it is being solved as the industry grows faster and faster. Also at the low end we are also working to improve the IT skills of the population. We hope to scale what we have achieved, it is not a lot but a 1000 girls were trained in basic ICT skills and the best of them were trained to be data administrators,” she said.

“Governments in the region have a critical role to play in leading national initiatives for employment: putting in place policies; raising awareness and articulating a clear strategy and messaging to enthuse communities; and finally providing an ICT platform where all the stakeholders — especially youth —can connect, massively collaborate and co-innovate to create the jobs of tomorrow,” said Selim Edde, vice president, government relations at SAP MENA.

As Internet penetration has jumped 294% in the region between 2007 and 2012, technology has the potential to impact every aspect of labour markets, including better matching of jobs across all sectors, facilitating up-skilling, empowering entrepreneurs, and providing actionable data to decision-makers, says the report.

The report “Re-Dynamising the Job Machine: Technology-Driven Transformation of Labor Markets in MENA,” was produced by INSEAD Business School, Abu Dhabi Centre for Economic Growth , and SAP.

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