Digital transformation initiatives in East Africa received a welcome boost this week as 52 skilled youth graduated from an expanded East African SAP Skills for Africa program. Speaking at a graduation ceremony held at the Kenya School of Government in Nairobi, Head of SAP Skills for Africa Meena Confait said every one of the graduates have already been placed at partner and customer organizations in the region. “This year marked our first expanded East Africa program, with candidates from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia completing their training in key SAP solutions. In line with our commitment to diversity, we are also proud to announce that 40% of graduates are female. We wish all graduates well as they enter the regional workforce and apply their hard-earned digital expertise.”
SAP Skills for Africa is a skills development initiative between SAP Africa, its customers, and various public and private sector partners, and focuses on training and certifying graduates in a broad spectrum of SAP software and business solutions. Since its inception in 2012, it has provided training and industry job placement opportunities for more than 400 consultants, with more than a third of them assimilated through the partnership with the ICT Authority.
In January, Skills for Africa received the prestigious Hasso Plattner Founder’s Award, the highest accolade awarded by SAP to an individual or team from around the globe, for its impact on digital skills development in Africa.
Valuable partner and customer ecosystem
Considering the importance of SMEs in driving job creation and economic growth on the African continent, this year also saw the introduction of SAP Business One to the curriculum, which already supports more than 55 000 SMEs globally. “By focusing on developing practical digital skills related to actual market needs, SAP Skills for Africa graduates are able to make an immediate positive impact in the workplace. The 52 young professionals graduating today are fully equipped to implement and manage our SAP Business One solution within our partner and customer organisations in the region, supporting and driving the growth and success of the critical SME sector,” said Confait.
SAP partners and customers forming part of this year’s graduate intake include EIM Solutions , Bluekey Seidor, Acetek Software, Techbiz Africa, Izon Future Systems, Leanity Dynamics, Advance One, Bidco Africa, Lasso Group Technologies, TTCS / EOH; Kenblest Group, EEU, Kenafric Industries, Piotech, IBSL, and Fairfax Technologies.
Mikul Shah, Chief Executive Officer at Kenafric Industries, one of the East Africa partners of the initiative, said: “As a rapidly expanding and diversified group, we place a premium on developing the digital talent and expertise we need to power our business into the future. Initiatives such as this play an important role in equipping our workforce with practical skills and experience that can immediately bring the promise of digital transformation to fruition within our business.”
This year marked the first time that SAP Skills for Africa involved graduates and companies from Ethiopia. According to Mr. Berhanu Kebede, CIO of the Ethiopia Electric Utility, the graduates will play a vital part in the company’s mission to create an IT enabled world class Electric Utility Company for ultimate customer satisfaction. “We are currently embarked on an ambitious project of modernizing our country’s electricity provision to benefit all citizens. Having the requisite digital skills available will be crucial in the coming years as we aim to increase the number of electrified towns and rural villages from 6,387 to 6,972 and improve electricity coverage from 57.1% to 58.2%.”
SMEs critical to Kenya’s economic fortunes
While Kenya has no comprehensive record of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs, the local term for SMEs), there is an estimated 7.5 million MSMEs contributing up to 44% of the country’s GDP. However, the Deloitte Kenya Economic Outlook 2016 highlighted that Kenya’s MSMEs are hindered by factors that include inadequate skills and rapid changes in technology.
Speaking during the graduation ceremony Mr. Joe Mucheru, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of ICT emphasized on the importance of such collaborative efforts to create jobs in our ecosystem through skills, “In line with the National ICT Master Plan, the development of quality ICT human resources is a pre- requisite to the development of a viable ICT sector. Therefore, the training and certification is playing a key role by equipping the unemployed youth with the right skills to run the most demanding applications in the market.”
Dr Gilbert Saggia, Managing Director: East Africa at SAP Africa, said this year’s graduates will have a major impact on local organisations’ digital transformation efforts. “With SMEs accounting for as much as 80% of all new jobs created on the continent, it is critical that we support and drive the success of this sector. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerates, organisations ranging from large enterprises to SMEs will need scarce digital skills to ensure their success in a dynamic business environment. We look forward to building on the success of the past few years, and look forward to seeing how today’s graduates make their presence felt at our valued partner and customer ecosystem.”