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Reflections on Africa Day: Our future-ready strategies

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By Emmanuel Zvada

Today we celebrate Africa’s rich heritage, its people, cultural diversity and good environment. The fourth industrial revolution ushers new business models and new ways of working that require critical technical, digital and soft skills. Those skills are in short supply. This gives us a reason to be optimistic, as Africans, as we look into the future. Africa is an increasingly attractive business destination. Driven by ambitious objectives and new markets, more international companies are expanding into Africa. This article will zoom into the future and proffer strategies which are in accordance with the Agenda 2063 development targets.

Investing in artificial intelligence and ICT

The future is bright and African countries must harness the potential of artificial intelligence in all its sectors.

Jobs around the world and all skill levels are becoming more intensive in their use of digital technologies.

In a world characterised by enhanced connectivity and where data is as pervasive as it is valuable, Africa has a unique opportunity to leverage on new digital technologies to drive large-scale transformation and competitiveness.

Africa cannot and should not be left behind.

The greatest long-term benefits of ICT intensive jobs will be unlocked by equipping Africans with skills to design and engineer home-grown solutions rather than simply servicing the low skilled delivery end of the global digital market.

The region needs to formulate a comprehensive continental blueprint to guide its artificial intelligence strategy by involving key pan-African institutions, academia, private and public sectors in its conception.

We must harmonise regulatory policies that encourage ethically built artificial intelligence systems so as to guarantee a more inclusive economic development for Africa. With these important steps, the next decade for Africa will be intelligent.

Creating a culture of lifelong learning

While the bulk of Africa’s population is very young, there is a need for both a culture of lifelong learning as well as infrastructure that helps to make such continued learning possible. Skills are key in shaping a better future and are central to the capacity of countries and people to thrive in an increasingly interconnected and rapidly changing world.

This is particularly necessary due to the rapid technological developments taking place in the global labour market. More learning will need to take place at the workplace and greater private sector involvement holds the key to building more resilient talent pools in the region.

On the same note, Africa’s employers should, therefore, offer learning opportunities to their workers in collaboration with governments, schools, universities and informal education providers.

Lifelong learning also improves employability and entrepreneurship through skills development and creativity, enhances public health and well-being, and builds more cohesive and resilient communities. Lifelong learning is, in short, an important contributor to sustainable development, globally, and at national level.

It is clear that an environment conducive to lifelong learning will not come into existence on its own. Africa needs inclusive education policies and programmes. Lack of policies (and their enactment) ensuring education for all, coupled with policies that lack a demand-side perspective and fail to involve learners in the policy-making process, prevent the realisation of a culture of lifelong learning in Africa. There should be inclusive education policies to ensure access to digital infrastructure so as to counteract inequalities.

Good governance practices

Developing a suitable system of corporate governance is an important priority for Africa. A majority of the business entities and, in particular, financial institutions in Africa have been found to lack the ability to manage wealth by effectively developing and encouraging indigenous and foreign investors to stake their capital for reasonable returns. Africa must have strong institutions and good governance in place. Africa must consciously nurture its corporate governance infrastructure.

Both State- and privately-run institutions should have proper corporate governance systems. Africa’s corporate governance systems must recognise both global best practice and the perculiarities of African business. Good, mature corporate governance should walk in  tandem with the development of Africa’s business community. In an improved environment, businesses will think in terms of broader timeframes and market horizons, the more complex marshalling of resources and, above all, growth.

Reinforcing Africa’s role in the global economy

It is vital that African countries actively engage the forces of globalisation. Africa is no stranger to suffering. The continent has been plundered by colonisers, exploited by world powers, and ravaged by the post-colonial conflicts leaving a legacy of relentless volatility, horrific violence, and widespread poverty. This then is what it has to reverse. Africa’s role in the world economy derives from its economic importance to the rest of the world, in international trade and as a destination for international investment. The strategy towards globalisation for African countries should reflect the structure of their economies and their endowments relative to other parts of the world.

While some African countries have basic infrastructure and human capacity to embark on industrialisation, the majority are at a pre-industrial stage hence there is need for regional integrations and synergies among ourselves. United we stand and divided we fall as a continent. Africa needs robust policy response from every country on the continent, coupled with strong support from Africa’s development partners.

Monitor demographic trends and job creation

Africa has the youngest population in the world. There are far too few good jobs for all youngsters. This scenario not only poses major challenges for the continent itself; it has global implications. Among the main challenges facing the continent is the mismatch between demographic trends and job creation. With rapid population growth and urbanisation, African leaders must fashion and implement policies to encourage job creation and provide service delivery.

Africa will emerge from this episode stronger and more resilient than ever before. Yes l am very positive but to resolve Africa’s unemployment nightmare and problems, our leaders must develop and effectively implement reforms that foster sustainable inclusive economic growth. Africa Day will only be genuinely celebrated when we eradicate poverty and the economic and political problems Africans are facing.

  • Emmanuel Zvada is an award-winning Most Fabulous Global HR Practitioner 2020, HR disrupter and trusted coach. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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