The South African tech ecosystem is thriving. This is reflected in the latest African Tech Ecosystems of the Future 2021/22 report by fDi, which ranked South Africa highly when it comes to recognising tech innovation and having an established digital start-up ecosystem.
Caissa Veeran, head of partnerships at HyperionDev, Southern Africa's leading provider of tech education, says that South Africa has one of the largest ICT markets in Africa showing extraordinary technological leadership in mobile and security software fields, as well as the online banking services environment. "Several international corporates operate subsidiaries in South Africa boasting the likes of IBM, Microsoft, and Intel. This is because the country is the regional hub and supply base for neighbouring countries."
"Although our tech sector is developing, it's becoming an increasingly important contributor to South Africa's GDP, and now is the time for locals to take advantage of it when it comes to job opportunities," she says. "Tech companies rely strongly on skilled resources in order to grow their businesses to adapt to new technologies that are emerging, however the supply is not meeting the demand as the current skills being developed are not suitable."
Veeran says that this can be addressed by preparing for today and tomorrow through skills development programs that cater for current and emerging technologies whilst being accessible and affordable. "The supply needs to meet the demand as change is happening fast."
This has been recognised by the government which has embarked on extensive skills development programs aimed at training one million young people by 2030, in robotics, artificial intelligence, coding, cloud computing, networking.
Upskilling South Africa is everyone's responsibility
South Africa's unemployment rate ranks among the highest in the world, says Veeran. "What is especially concerning is how many young South Africans are unemployed. According to Stats SA, the unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 34 years is a staggering 52%, meaning one in every two young people in the country don't have a job."
Although the tech industry holds job opportunities, Veeran explains that there are various challenges South Africa is faced with, such as the current lack of access to technology, connectivity, education, and the high cost of data, all of which have severely restricted the number of young people equipped to enter the tech industry, particularly in rural areas."
To mitigate this there's a lot of work to do at grassroot level to provide South African youth with access to good quality education that is accessible and is affordable, she adds. "This is something that needs to be addressed by organisations, schools and universities who need to increasingly work together to improve access and the quality of education, update the current curriculum and highlight the dynamics and the ranges of careers in the technology world."
Veeran believes that companies also have a role to play when it comes to addressing job creation and specialised skills development. "All the efforts that go into basic skills development is wasted if there are no entry level jobs available for graduates to earn experience in these fields. Employers also need to focus on a continuous data rescaling and upskilling for existing employees to keep up with cybersecurity, AI programming and data science, for example."
EdTech is paving the way
HyperionDev has released its 2021 Tech Graduate Futures Report which revealed that more than half its students only have a higher diploma or high school education. "Our focus and mission are on the democratising education and providing access to all. This result is proof that anyone can graduate from our coding bootcamps with a job-ready level of coding expertise, regardless of their educational background, or where they come from," says Veeran.
Subsequently, she points out that almost 80% of graduates found a new job within six months of the bootcamp with the largest proportion becoming professional software engineers and full stack developers. "However, it's important to note that only 19.6% of graduates came from an IT related field meaning that anyone can take up a career in tech if they wish."
"Our graduates also increased their salary by 23%, with 55% of graduates completing a bootcamp whilst working a full-time job," she adds.
The reality is that 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines by 2025, whilst 97 million new ones may emerge, that are more adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines, algorithms. 2025 is just three years away. The future is knocking at our doors," she says.
"Considering the opportunities that are currently available in the tech space in the country, the time is now for South Africans to be upskilled and armed with the tools to participate in the jobs of today and tomorrow," Veeran concludes.