Modern workplaces – upskilling Africa’s workforce for the needs of tomorrow

Chrystele Dumont

Partner Content: Microsoft

By Chrystele Dumont – COO and CMO for Emerging Markets in the Middle East and Africa at Microsoft

New technology is sweeping across Africa, giving businesses exciting opportunities that didn’t exist only a few years ago. In order to take full advantage of this change, these same businesses will need employees who have the skill sets needed to thrive in the modern workplace.

The World Economic Forum estimates that automation and AI will displace 75 million low-skilled jobs by 2022. The same process will see the creation of another 133 million new jobs, many of which will be specialised and require a workforce with expertise in technologies such as AI, machine learning, and big data analytics.

This will have a big impact on the workplace. With the adoption of advanced tech throughout a company, entirely new jobs will be created that have never been seen before. Companies will be required to upskill or reskill their employees so that they can leverage off the new tech, improving efficiencies and processes for the company as they do. Employees will have to be ready to learn new skills to fulfil new functions, multiple times throughout their careers, if they are to add value and remain competitive in the modern workforce.

Africa and the Middle East is already home to a quarter of the world’s population, meaning that the workforce of the future could be the one currently being created alongside digital innovation, adoption, and integration throughout Africa.

Skilling for digital transformation

Digital transformation is no longer an idea, it is something Microsoft’s customers are going through right now. But digital transformation is not about bringing in the latest tech advancements for its own sake, but about empowering people – be they small business owners, or employees of rapidly expanding companies – to maximise their own potential and use the tech to improve efficiencies, develop better products, or improve the customer experience.

M-Kopa, a company that provides solar electricity to 500 000 low-income households in Africa, is a great example of how technology can be used for social good. More than just powering lights or televisions, the electricity M-Kopa provides empowers people to go online where they can find jobs, learn new skills, or start their own businesses.

M-Kopa recently adopted Microsoft Dynamics 365 to better consolidate its operations from different markets on a single platform. John Muthiora, Head of IT Systems, M-Kopa, says that over 95% of M-Kopa’s business, from a technology standpoint, is now running on the cloud. Using a mix of different services, such as infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, and software as a service, M-Kopa has increased its speed of execution, and has given the company the ability to scale massively.

In order to digitally transform a company, it is important to remember the human resource side of the process. Understanding the type of competencies and skills in an organisation, and where the gaps are, is essential when building the right plans to facilitate the upskilling or reskilling of employees.

Skilling and transformation must align with an organisation’s vision

According to one estimate, 75% of students today will do jobs that do not currently exist. While 38% of young professionals believe that their education has not sufficiently prepared them for the workplace.

There are a number of things companies can do to assist their employees get on board with an upskilling, reskilling, or digital transformation plan. One example is taking advantage of Microsoft’s Enterprise Skills Initiative. This includes platforms like Cloud Society which offers a range of different cloud training services for free on a single platform, or Microsoft Learn, a free-to-use platform for both customers and employees, with content and courses specifically designed to upskill people for the cloud. To go a step further, customers will also be able to become Microsoft Certified. This is a paid-for engagement that allows people to prove their expertise to their peers and employers and earn the recognition and opportunities that come along with that.

Companies should also consider creating a strong ‘why message’ that can be communicated to employees and explain the reasons behind a company’s decision to undertake such change. Ideally, this message should align with a company’s mission, be it to improve customer service or develop better products in record time.

CEOs and their boards should put some thought into the vision and the mission statement that is driving the adoption of new tech, and as a result is requiring employees to be upskilled.

This vision can then be translated into strategies and plans on exactly how the change will be implemented. If a strong culture of change, collaboration, and sharing of valuable ideas has been instilled, it remains important for a business to be aware of what the skilling, upskilling, and reskilling requirements of this change will be for the employees.

A good example of aligning the change that needs to be made in an organisation with a company’s mission is Sterling Bank, in Nigeria. To improve both its time-to-market and the quality of its customer services, the bank adopted a cloud-first approach and selected Microsoft Azure to help it achieve these goals.

Using Azure, a cloud computing service created for the building, testing, deploying and managing of applications and services through a global network of Microsoft-managed data centres, the bank was able to grow its customer base from just over a million, to over three million. The bank also recorded a surge in the volume of transactions, breaking the record it achieved throughout 2017 by the middle of 2018.

What the examples above show is what we will be seeing across Africa in the years to come. Through the strategic deployment of technology and the skilling of employees to make use of it, individuals and businesses from the continent will be able to fulfil their potential and play a key role in the workplaces of the future.