UNDP and IBM join forces to develop tech skills of Africa’s young workforce

Feb 13, 2017

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. Its newly launched initiative – IBM Digital - Nation Africa – will provide free skills development programs using a cloud-based learning platform to as many as 25 million African youths over five years, enabling digital competence and nurturing innovation in Africa. 

In support of this initiative, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development (IICPSD) and IBM will collaborate on skills development in the Middle East and Africa.  They will also explore opportunities to foster public-private partnerships in skills design and delivery and to strengthen skills acquisition for youth, women, and other disadvantaged groups. In the various countries targeted by the initiative, UNDP and IBM will collaborate on opportunities for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills delivery, certification, and accreditation.

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 emphasized the potential link between Digital Nation Africa and the implementation of the global development agenda given the important role of information technology in enabling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Highlighting UNDP’s experience in youth empowerment, Badawi said 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.

Ms. Gulcin Salingan, IICPSD Deputy Director, underscored the Center’s commitment to leverage this partnership to support the work of UNDP 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 will provide access to thousands of resources and will range from basic IT literacy to highly sought-after advanced IT skills including social engagement, digital privacy, and cyber protection.  It 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.  The program will be launched from IBM’s regional offices in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt, enabling the expansion of the initiative across the continent.

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

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