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Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award Finalist Profile: SAP Skills for Africa

January 19, 2017 by Paul Baur, Robin Meyerhoff

By simulating a startup, a small group of employees are bridging the skills gap in Africa, giving a future to young people who are previously disadvantaged and expanding SAP’s influence on the rising continent.

Perhaps in no other place is SAP’s vision to help the world run better and improve people’s lives put to a greater test than on the African content. In most African countries, the majority live below the poverty line and many have limited opportunities to better themselves. The only way up is through education and employment.

But there is hope, and help. Africa currently has the fastest growing working-age population of any other region, and seven of the 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa. But the challenges facing even the most motivated youth are formidable. Less than 1% of African children currently leave school with basic coding skills and general STEM education levels are very poor.

Government, private sector, and non-profits are struggling to find suitable candidates for open positions. The human cost associated with the lack of skilled tech resources is even greater than the business cost, because a single breadwinner is relied on to support up to six dependents.

SAP Skills for Africa Program is Born

Integral to the SAP Africa Growth Plan, announced in August 2014, is the up-skilling of the next generation of IT leaders and professionals by training up to 10,000 consultants by 2020 in close collaboration with local governments and universities.  SAP Africa needs local professionals in the job market who understand SAP’s products and have the vision and skills to implement them. In so doing, this will not only address the skills shortages and provide much needed income to young professionals, but it will ultimately also grow the SAP business on the continent.  This is the goal behind the SAP Skills for Africa program, a finalist for the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award 2016.


The Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award is the highest employee recognition at SAP, awarded annually by the CEO to an individual or a team.

Finalist Fast Facts

  • Submission Title: SAP Skills for Africa Initiative
  • Board Area: Global Customer Operations
  • Team: Meena Confait, Tarryn Naidoo, Malese Ndhlovu, Chris van der Merwe
  • Number of employees: 4
  • Achievement: Placed 418 associate consultants in SAP ecosystems in Africa. Working with partners and customers. Countries: Kenya, Morocco, South Africa (Cape Town, Johannesburg).
  • Future Plans: Launching in Francophone Africa, South Africa & East Africa in 2017.
  • Impact: Providing work to thousands of African families.

SAP Skills for Africa delivers on SAP’s vision because it addresses Africa’s skills gap in a simple yet extremely effective way.

“SAP not only trains and certifies young and dynamic graduates through this program, it also puts them into employment, creating our own sustainable skills pipeline and enhancing SAP’s long term viability,” says Meena Confait, head of the SAP Skills for Africa program at SAP Africa.

Using a hybrid approach of classroom and e-learning training, the three-month program is run free of cost for select unemployed graduates in key African regions.

Tangible and Direct Impact on People’s Lives

SAP Skills for Africa started in a humble way in Kenya in 2013 with only a handful of recruits. Other countries have been added since, including Morocco and South Africa, with Francophone Africa planned in 2017, covering countries such as Ivory Coast, Algeria and Morocco in its recruitment drive.

“We’re like a pop-up shop. Where ever we go we carry no infrastructure costs,” explains Meena. “There is no overhead, and when we go into the country we ask for sponsored training venues. That makes the program very lean, entrepreneurial and unique.”

“We have a tangible and direct impact on people’s lives,” says Chris van der Merwe, senior talent acquisition specialist and talent delivery lead for SAP Skills for Africa. “When you hear the stories of how the program helped young people get a start on their future, it makes you very proud to be an SAP employee.”

Many companies invest in well-meaning skills development programs for Africa as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programs, but most don’t result in jobs. SAP Skills for Africa is different because job creation is part and parcel of the program. “SAP Skills for Africa is a job creation motor that fully leverages the power of SAP’s existing ecosystem,” says Chris.

Continuing to Evolve

“The SAP Skills for Africa program was truly run on design thinking principles,” says Mehmood Khan, chief operating officer at SAP Africa. “Input was collected from partners, customers, and students, and the model was adapted to each new set of circumstances and cultural nuances, undergoing numerous refinement cycles to reach what it is now.”

The results now speak for themselves. SAP Skills for Africa has already placed 418 associate consultants in SAP ecosystems in Africa, and more are on the way in 2017.

“SAP partners and customers are now vying for the graduates as they become available, which is a huge validation of our efforts,” says Meena. Other market units are now interested in replicating the program.

Chris is proud of what the team has achieved so far: “We’re creating the next vanguard of talent in our organization and ecosystem,” he concludes.

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