New SAP STEM 4IR Centre Empowers Local Community with Access to 21st Century Digital Skills

A delegation of local community members and public and private sector leaders attended the opening of a new youth skills development facility at the Siyafunda Community Technology Centre in Ekurhuleni this week. The Siyafunda STEM and 4IR Centre is a new lab that was donated by SAP to give local communities a private space for skills development and experimentation with coding, robotics and 3D printing technologies.

Michael Kleinemeier, Member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, SAP Digital Business Services, officially opened the centre at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. “It’s our responsibility to help children all over the world to learn skills to become fit for the future. Our mission is to power opportunity for all people and we put that mission into action by building digital skills.”

Kleinemeier said the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is forcing a radical rethink of education, with an emphasis on lifelong learning. “According to the World Economic Forum, nearly two thirds of children entering school today will one day work in jobs that don’t yet exist. In line with broader government efforts to empower South Africa’s youth with essential Information Communication Technology skills, this new centre will support the development of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) and 4IR skills to ensure our future talent force can compete on equal footing in tomorrow’s global digital economy.”

The Siyafunda Community Technology Centres support communities by providing access to computers, the Internet, and other digital technologies to enable them to gather information, create, learn and communicate with others while they develop essential digital skills. The centres are also enablers for job creation by providing essential skills to the youth, the unemployed and people with disabilities, thereby making them employable and alleviating unemployment by networking with recruitment agencies, government agencies and businesses.

Kleinemeier was joined at the ceremony by Ahmed Ismael, Founding Director at the Siyafunda Community Technology Centres; Advocate Mtho Xulu, President of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Thabo Mofokeng, President of the Information Technology Association of South Africa; Duma Nkosi, Advisor to the National Minister of Economic Development; and Dr Nikolaus Eberl, Vice President of the Information Technology Association of South Africa.

He added that collaboration between the public, private and community sectors has already produced outstanding outcomes as African youth are empowered with the basic skills needed to enter the types of jobs that will drive the 21st century digital economy. “SAP Africa has supported the Siyafunda Community Technology Centres for more than a decade and has been the major supporter of the First Lego League Robotics programme in South Africa. In addition, our Africa Code Week initiative last year introduced 2.3 million African youth – of which 46% were female – across 37 countries to basic coding skills. Following President Ramaphosa’s recent announcement that coding and robotics will be added to the school curriculum, the message is clear: South Africa’s youth need practical ways to learn the essential digital skills needed to participate in future economic activity. SAP Africa looks forward to continuing its broad collaborative efforts with local and global stakeholders to reduce the digital skills gap and empower a new generation of digital talent.”

The SAP STEM and 4IR Centre is based in Palm Ridge, Ekurhuleni, across the road from the local Siyafunda Community Technology Centre. Cathy Smith, Managing Director at SAP Africa, said the centre will serve as an important resource for local communities as they build 21st century digital skills. “Innovation belongs to us, and yet according to the World Bank, more than half of all global citizens are excluded from the digital economy. As a purpose-driven global organisation, SAP is tackling this issue head-on through a range of digital inclusion initiatives that align with the ambitions set out by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically as they relate to quality education, decent work and economic growth, and strengthening partnership for sustainable development. As the founding partner of the Siyafunda Community Technology Centres, SAP Africa has assisted with the rollout of more than 200 centres across all nine provinces since 2006. We look forward to supporting local youth skills development through our partnership with Siyafunda, as well as through our various corporate social responsibility initiatives aimed at building a sustainable digital workforce in South Africa and beyond.”