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The explosion of cloud computing in recent years has highlighted the opportunity to close the gap in cloud and other technology skills in South Africa and the rest of Africa to accelerate economic growth.
The use of cloud technology has grown dramatically since the advent of COVID-19 due to the flexibility it provides business and other users to access and transfer large amounts of data anywhere and anytime. It also allows businesses to scale their operations and keep large amounts of data secure at a low cost and negates the need for physical infrastructure like data centers.
South Africa currently has limited skills to support the wider adoption and use of cloud computing technology with a cloud skills supply-demand ratio standing at five. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that there will be 230 million new jobs in Africa by 2030, and it is critical that the workforce has the right level of data literacy and correct technology skills to seize these opportunities. This is not an insurmountable challenge but rather presents a massive opportunity for the country and continent to firmly close the gap in cloud skills and transform the continent to a competitive source for Cloud skills.
Digital and human skills
The skills required for cloud computing and other technologies at the heart of business operations include any knowledge and skills related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). In fact, this is a fantastic baseline skillset, and a great number of schools in South Africa and Africa cover this in their curricula. Cloud certifications from big tech groups like Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) provide a strong start for high school and university students and entrants into the workplace and meta tech companies like Salesforce are providing avenues to learn tech and digital skills. The workforce and young people across the continent must pursue these opportunities with vigour.
But what is equally important is the development of human skills and attributes like curiosity, creativity, decision making, and having a growth mindset. These represent a second set of skills that every member of the general and technology workforce must develop to be successful.
Creativity solves tech problems
The use of creativity is a case in point. Employees must develop this skill to analyse problems in the technology sphere in new and different ways and envision solutions in terms of possibilities. When it comes to cloud computing, creativity is expressed through lateral thinking to solve problems.
The underlying quality that employees must possess to show this type of creativity is openness. Keeping an open mind and having a growth mindset propel the workforce to take a blue-sky approach instead of being restricted by obstacles.
Business must build skills
Naturally, there is still a lack of opportunity and access to opportunity to develop the requisite human and hard tech skills at the level of proficiency that the continent requires to compete on the global stage. It is set to become a business issue so organisations must prioritise resolving this obstacle.
Standard Bank's vision to help drive Africa's growth and skills development, particularly skills of the future, is key to unlocking the continent’s development. In addition to upskilling their own workforce with cloud skills, the bank is driving youth development programmes aimed at building 4IR skills among high school and university students, offering graduate programmes, learnerships, and internships that help young people overcome barriers to entry in the tech space.
Standard Bank's Ranger programme - a partnership with Salesforce’s Trailhead - has aimed to spread digital and 4IR knowledge. “Salesforce believes business can be the greatest platform for change. The Trailhead Ranger and Engineering Skills development programmes are a critical part of Salesforce partnership with Standard Bank’s digital platform programmes and key pillars in Salesforce’s investments in South Africa. Through these programmes at the bank, we are seeing how much opportunity there is to unlock talent across Africa and provide fantastic work opportunities, accessible to all. There is so much to do but these programmes give so much hope for Africa’s future”, concludes Stuart Mills VP Trailhead & Ecosystems EMEA at Salesforce.
The Bank’s partnership with AWS to deepen the skills of cloud engineers, as well as the Enterprise Skills Initiative (ESI), a partnership skills development initiative with Microsoft aimed at upskilling its workforce in Microsoft Azure, demonstrates how organisations across the continent can take charge of closing the prevailing cloud skills gap.
The outcome of such initiatives is a pipeline of cloud capabilities and other technology skills.
Collaboration on the continent
What bodes well for the development of cloud and tech skills in South Africa and across continent is the early developments of a new, ambitious strategic partnership programme between Standard Bank, Microsoft, AWS and Salesforce. The programme is working toward increasing the number of certified cloud engineers in South Africa and the rest of Africa, and upskilling small enterprises to become competitive vendors in this area.
This initiative, which also aims to elevate 4IR skills and digital savviness on the continent by 2025, was born in South Africa but is being bolstered and expanded by the innovative and advanced tech industries in the eastern and western regions of the continent.
Africa is a continent rich in creativity, and organisational partnerships aimed at unlocking critical skills such as this one has the potential to make a profound impact on Africa’s growth.