UNDP joins forces with IBM on tech skills development for Africa’s young workforce

Feb 9, 2017

Appearing at the “IBM Digital - Nation Africa” launch event in Johannesburg (from left to right): IICPSD Deputy Director Gulcin Salingan; IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; and UNDP South Africa Country Director Walid Badawi.

Johannesburg, South Africa – IBM is investing $70 million in building much-needed digital, cloud, and cognitive IT skills to help support a 21st century workforce in Africa. The initiative, “IBM Digital - Nation Africa”, provides a cloud-based learning platform designed to provide free skills development programs for up to 25 million African youths over five years, enabling digital competence and nurturing innovation in Africa.
 
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development (IICPSD) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IBM to facilitate the collaboration for skills development in Middle East and Africa regions.


Under the MoU, the parties have agreed to explore opportunities to foster public private partnerships in skills design and delivery and to strengthen skills acquisition for youth, women, and other disadvantaged groups. The MoU is expected to be a framework for accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda, with a special focus on the acquisition of market-driven skills.


Concurrently with the MoU, on Thursday 9 February in Johannesburg, IBM launched “IBM Digital - Nation Africa”, a digital skills training initiative aimed at benefitting up to 25 million African youth over the next five years.
 
With the aim of equipping as many as 25 million people with sought after IT skills over the next five years, the program will be launched from IBM’s regional offices in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, and Egypt. This will enable the expansion of the initiative across the continent.
 
The event featured a keynote address by IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty, and a panel conversation titled Driving Digital Competence and Innovation in Africa which was moderated by Mr. Hamilton Ratshefola, IBM South Africa General Manager.


Panelists included Mr. Arvind Krishna, IBM Senior Vice President and Director of Research; Professor Adam Habib, Vice Chancellor, Wits University; Mr. Allon Raiz, Raizcorp CEO, Mr. Walid Badawi, UNDP Country Director in South Africa.

 
Hailing the announcement, Walid Badawi said: “UNDP is pleased to leverage its global presence, development knowledge, and long-standing partnerships to provide context, traction and scale to this collaboration with IBM.”


Badawi further highlighted the potential link between Digital Nation Africa and the implementation of the global development agenda, as IT will invariably play a big role in enabling the SDGs.


Speaking to UNDP’s experience in youth empowerment, Badawi cited the organization’s successful YouthConnekt, an innovative programme in Rwanda designed to connect young professionals with career opportunities in the public and private sector, as well as UNDP’s work to provide young South Africans with marketable skills, including IT skills.


He also underscored the potentially disruptive impacts of the digital revolution for a workforce ill-prepared to weather such changes, a phenomenon detailed in UNDP’s 2015 Human Development Report titled Work for Human Development.


“Redundancies and displacement of workers due to technological change for the segment of the population that is unable to keep up with changes will require interventions to ensure workers’ well-being, through safety nets and social protection.” added Badawi. 
 
In the various countries targeted by the initiative UNDP will collaborate with IBM on opportunities for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills delivery, certification, and accreditation.


Also present at the event, Ms. Gulcin Salingan, IICPSD Deputy Director underscored the center’s commitment to leverage this partnership to support the work of Country Offices and facilitate the achievement of the SDGs.


“IICPSD has been working in the thematic area of private sector-led skills development for almost half a decade. We are generating targeted and actionable knowledge for impact, as reflected by our field studies in Turkey, India and beyond. We facilitate transformative partnerships and support catalytic programme and project implementation all around the world such as Kosovo*, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Uzbekistan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Palestine. The center will act as UNDP’s key coordinating unit of and will operationalize the partnership with IBM, and synergize the efforts towards the global development goals” said Ms. Salingan.
 
“IBM Digital - Nation Africa” is expected to provide the youth with free access to mobile applications, web guides, online tutorials, and the services of a volunteer programme to support and promote digital literacy.

 

 

[*References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999)]