Box 1: The Africa Skills Initiative
Addressing Africa’s unemployment challenge and its growing skills mismatch will require the concerted efforts of all stakeholders. Although it is governments that must create the enabling environment that promotes the creation of quality employment overall and secures access to quality education, it is critical that business, civil society, and the education and training sector are engaged in identifying and implementing solutions.
Under the umbrella of the World Economic Forum’s Global Challenge on Employment, Skills & Human Capital,1 the Africa Skills Initiative convenes the Forum’s multi-stakeholder communities in an effort to understand the present and future needs of this challenge and identify potential solutions. The initiative uses a set of analytical tools that includes the Human Capital Index, which measures and benchmarks countries on their human capital endowment; the Future of Jobs analysis, which provides sector-level diagnostics on key trends and disruptions to the job market and their effects on employment and skills; and the Disrupting Unemployment portal, which consolidates information on business-led solutions for addressing skills gaps, fostering entrepreneurship, and facilitating the talent market. Leveraging this knowledge, the initiative aims to identify what can be done today to disrupt the employment crisis now while at the same time preparing for the future. Led by the Africa Business Council, the initiative calls on businesses to make public commitments to creating jobs and improving skills over a period of two years.
Some vital lessons emerge from existing solutions and best practices. First and foremost, partnerships between different sectors are an indispensable component of finding scalable solutions. Across the most successful initiatives an explicit partnership arrangement between multiple sectors of society is crucial to tackling the magnitude of the current situation.
Second, in an environment of ongoing disruption, interventions are most effective if they are sustainably designed for the long term rather than reactive or based only on past successes. For example, efforts to place unemployed youth in apprenticeships in traditional job categories may not provide a high return on investment for the company or the individuals involved if those job categories are likely to be obsolete in five years’ time. Instead there may be greater opportunity in entirely new high-growth occupations for which new forms of apprenticeships may need to be created.
This approach can be seen in Digital Jobs Africa by the Rockefeller Foundation, which responds to the current disruptions by catalyzing sustainable information communication technology (ICT)-enabled employment opportunities and skills training for African youth.2
Partnering with actors from the private sector, government, civil society, and the development community, the initiative gives youth access to digital job opportunities while building and refining transferable skills that make them resilient in the future economy.
Third, technology is a key enabler to reach scale. Cisco’s Networking Academy,3 for example, partners with education institutes and local nongovernmental organizations in more than 170 countries to deliver an ICT training program that combines on- and offline modules and is tailored to different regions.
Fourth, initiatives that tap into core business processes and match the public good with private interest are often very successful and demonstrate sustainable results. 5by20,4 for example, is an initiative by the Coca-Cola Company that enables women entrepreneurs in Coke’s value chain by breaking down the barriers they face. The offered programs include business skills training courses as well as access to financial services and support networks of peers or mentors.