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IBM plans big for Africa, votes $70m to grow cognitive IT skills

Leading global ICT services providers, IBM has begun investment of $70 million in deepening digital, cloud, and cognitive Information and Technology (IT) skills to drive knowledge economy quotient of  21st century workforce in Nigeria and other emerging economies of the continent.

Coming under the scheme; ‘IBM Digital – Nation Africa’, the initiative will provide tailor-based cloud-driven learning platform for free skills development programmes for up to 25 million African youths in the next five years. The idea, according to IBM will enable digital competence and boost innovation in Africa.

IBM said “The Digital – Nation Africa is designed to boost overall digital literacy, increase the number of skilled developers able to tap into cognitive engines, and enable entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs grow businesses around the new solutions”.

Already, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has lend support to the scheme expected to take many African and Middle East youths out of the labour market and land them to creating jobs with right information intelligence to grow Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The company also explained that its global push to build the next generation of skills needed for ‘New Collar’ careers will be dependent on the new investment.

New Collar as used by IBM means new kinds of careers that do not always require a four-year college degree but rather sought-after skills in cybersecurity, data science, artificial intelligence, cloud, and much more.

IBM is working with the permutation that Africa has approximately 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. By 2040, and that the continent is expected to be home to the world’s largest labour force, with an estimated working age population of one billion (State of Education in Africa Report 2015). Yet many African companies cite local skills gap as one of the major bottlenecks to growth.

However, through a free, cloud-based online learning environment delivered on IBM Bluemix, the premier cloud platform for business, the initiative will provide a range of programmes from basic IT literacy to highly sought-after advanced skills including social engagement, digital privacy, and cyber protection in Africa and Middle East.

Details made available to Business Hilights showed that the programme will be launched from IBM’s regional offices in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, and Egypt, to spread the initiative across the continent.

Accordingly, Country General Manager, IBM South Africa, Hamilton Ratshefola, said IBM sees effective, high quality IT education as a key driver of economic vitality in Afric, adding that through access to open standards, best practices, IBM tools, and course materials, the broad scope of this initiative will enable vital skills development.

He added that “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”.

In all, the emerging partnership with UNDP will present opportunities for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) skills delivery, certification, and accreditation.

Besides, UNDP has assured that its network of existing government partnerships will serve as channels for extending the programme across the continent of Africa.