Opportunities surge in digital skills…as Ghana seeks to harness potentials

Digital technologies are now commonplace. They are regarded as essential and useful in our daily life and gradually becoming embedded into our working culture. Dundas Whigham examines into detail the various opportunities that are imminent in the IFC recent released report on Digital Skills in Ghana.  

As owners and operators of Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) set up business websites to sell their products and services to a number of virtual customers online, coupled manufacturing companies using machines to enhance speed and quality in their workspace, certainly, this direction depicts a shift in the nature of work few years to come. This further shows that the future of work is set to experience drastic changes.

Having a workforce who are conversant with efficient use of digital skills is regarded as paramount and key to the success of the organization.

For instance, within Europe and its neighbourhood, at least 80 percent of managers and professionals need basic digital abilities whereas in larger workplaces, as many as 50 percent are required to have specialist digital skills.

The demand for digital skills is evolving and this development presents greater opportunities for stakeholders, most especially the private sector to play various respective roles in re-shaping the skills of people and younger students who will be required for future workforce.

It is as a result of this development, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a private sector arm of the World Bank Group, carried out a study in cooperation with global management firm -L.E.K. Consulting on the various opportunities of digital skills in Sub-Saharan Africa with a spotlight on Ghana.

According to the survey, about nine million jobs in Ghana would require digital skills by the year 2030. This estimation translates to nearly 20 million training opportunities.

What this implies is that the demand for digital skills is expected to grow at a faster rate than other markets both in Ghana and all around the African continent at large creating employability and opportunities for those with the requisite skills.

In July 2018, parliament approved a US$2 billion Master Project Support Agreement (MPSA) between Ghana and Sinohydro Corporation Limited for construction of priority infrastructure projects. It is worthy to note that the opportunities in terms of revenue generation for Ghana that comes along with digital skills is twice more than the Sinohydro project.

The opportunities include business-to-government and business-to-business which is estimated to require some 18 million people who have digital skills among their professional skills set by 2030 with almost US$3.5 billion in revenues expected to be generated from providing the requisite training whereas business-to-consumer opportunities are expected to be available to about 700,000 people by the same  year with about US$320 million in revenue expected to be generated from training them.

On the continent, the report finds that over 230 million job opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa will require digital skills by 2030 resulting in almost 650 million training opportunities. This will translate into an estimated US$130 billion in skills training revenues.

The demand for digital skills in Ghana and Sub-Saharan Africa is as a result of latent economic growth, digitisation and automation of its agriculture and manufacturing sectors as well as other services.

Key Findings

The study finds that the labour market for digital skills is already highly developed in Sub-Saharan Africa, with respondents to the digital skills survey estimating about half of jobs require some digital skills. Demand for digital skills is expected to grow at a faster rate in the region than in other global markets.

However, a significant gap in supply and demand exist across all levels of digital skills in the region, with a lower availability of skills than in other markets and significant gaps in supply of intermediate and advanced skills. The supply of digitally-skilled labour in Sub-Saharan Africa and Ghana must increase to meet anticipated labour market needs or Africa’s economy will falter.

Companies already are turning to talent abroad, and while governments have taken steps to integrate information and communication technology in education, the policy response has not been sufficient.

Demand for digital skills in Sub-Saharan Africa and Ghana is powered both by latent economic growth and digitization and automation of agriculture, manufacturing and services. The study finds that over 230 million jobs in Sub-Saharan Africa will require digital skills by 2030, resulting in almost 650 million training opportunities.

An estimated US$130 billion opportunity exists to provide digital skills across Sub-Saharan Africa until 2030, with nearly US$4 billion of this in Ghana. The largest opportunities are in business-to-business and business-to-government training for basic and intermediate, although there are significant opportunities in business-to-consumer training focused on intermediate and advanced skills.

Private providers, government, and investors must consider how to tap into this demand and advance the digital skills agenda in Sub-Saharan Africa. This report’s case studies demonstrate that new ways of operating are required access this opportunity. Short courses are ideal, typically three to 12 months long, with a mis of instructional methods geared toward practical learning rather than theoretical understanding.

A focus on graduate employability is absolutely critical for digital skills courses. Offerings should align with market demand and employer requirements to ensure students gain the technical and soft skills required by industry.     

Things to note

The report pointed to a significant gap which shows that the demand for digital skills is not currently being met by adequate supply in Ghana and the continent as a whole. For instance, nearly 20 percent of Ghanaian companies surveyed stated that they recruit expatriates for digital skills-oriented jobs, because they cannot find them in the country.

Around 80 percent of industry participants interviewed for the study underscored the effects of inadequate supply of digital skills, stating that it would hamper economic growth. The survey secured more than 150 responses of which 60 percent were from Sub-Sahara Africa with Ghana having half of them.

To be proactive in dealing effectively with this development, the survey instituted the need for a call to action on the need to streamline effective educational reforms in order to prepare the younger people for the future labour market.

Launching the report – Digital Skills in Sub-Saharan Africa: Spotlight on Ghana in Accra, a Senior Education Specialist of IFC, Alejandro Caballero noted that the survey presents the need for players in the ecosystem to start developing measures and mechanisms to train the future workforce in digital skills to take advantage of the opportunities that abound.

Technology influence and automation mean that work in the future might look different from what it is today and thus, require a changing set of skills. To be proactive, the study recommended changes in the education system, stressing that African educational providers that do not offer digital skills should consider developing new courses offerings with diverse modes and durations to train the future workforce to be better equipped in that area.

Currently, more than half of the global population have access to technology. This shift is reshaping the skills people will need to access the markets, run their own businesses and operate factories. To address this, the survey recommended that supply of digitally-skilled labour in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana must increase to meet anticipated market needs stressing that the private sector must play a pivotal role in addressing the challenges in securing an adequate supply of digital skills.

Respondents of the survey estimated that about half of jobs on the continent already require some digital skills and that demand for those skills is expected to increase more quickly than in other regions of the world.