Revolutionizing Africa’s Workforce: How an Investor and Operator Joined Forces to Upskill

Revolutionizing Africa's Workforce: How an Investor and Operator Join Forces to Upskill

One out of three tech jobs globally are filled by necessary skilled labour, and according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), this is one of the biggest concerns of global business leaders.

Over 50% of the organizations that these leaders manage, in a survey, say they have lost competitive advantage due to talent shortages. The bad news is that the situation might not improve for these companies in the coming years, as the WEF projects that 77% of the 150 million new jobs created by 2030 will require digital skills and young people might not be prepared to fill them. In Africa, hundreds of millions of youths are expected to join the continent’s workforce in the next decade.

According to the International Finance Corporation, over 200 million jobs will require digital skills in sub-Saharan Africa.

But the challenge with Africa’s talent shortage, unlike the rest of the world, is that while the barriers to gaining these digital skills, such as the digital divide and unequal access to quality education, are conspicuous, what’s gone on the radar for so long is upskilling those with digital skills. Upskilling employees (from soft skills such as communication, decision making and problem-solving to hard skills showing technical knowledge and foundational skills like teamwork) is a headache that most executives, managers and HR operators across small- to large- African enterprises have had to deal with for several years.

And it’s a first-hand frustration that Seni Sulyman and Kayode Oyewole, both investors and operators, have seen founders complain about during extensive conversations.

Online courses and mentorship with a local context A few years back, Sulyman was the vice president of Global Operations at Andela, where he helped scale the company across Africa and had teams in the U.S. With a decade of experience working at Andela, some Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. and angel investing (including as a venture partner at Ventures Platform) Sulyman clearly understands the role that deliberate growth and development played in improving tech talent.

Same with Oyewole. As a partner at Ventures Platform, a $46 million fund where he helped back many of Africa’s most prominent venture-funded startups — and as an operator before Ventures Platform, Oyewole is familiar with the difficulty founders and senior leaders face when trying to scale their team’s capabilities to meet evolving needs.

“We had independently been working on overlapping ideas in this space when Kola Aina (founding partner, Ventures Platform) introduced us to each other to have a conversation,” Oyewole said in an interview. “We talked to each other extensively for weeks and quickly realized that we share the deeply held belief that investing in upskilling talent to scale companies regionally or globally, with an end goal of creating more jobs and economic output, is Africa’s most important opportunity over the next three decades.”

A significant concern for global business leaders is the shortage of skilled labour to fill one out of three tech jobs worldwide, as highlighted by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Talent shortages have resulted in over 50% of surveyed organizations managed by these leaders losing their competitive edge. Unfortunately, the situation may worsen, with the WEF projecting that 77% of the 150 million new jobs by 2030 will require digital skills, which the younger generation may lack. In Africa, where millions of youth will join the workforce, over 200 million jobs in sub-Saharan Africa will demand digital skills. However, the challenge lies not only in the scarcity of talent but also in upskilling individuals who already possess digital skills.

This pressing issue has long frustrated executives, managers, and HR operators in African enterprises, including Seni Sulyman and Kayode Oyewole, who have experienced founders expressing their struggles firsthand. Recognizing the importance of deliberate growth and development, Sulyman and Oyewole, both investors and operators, share a common belief in investing in upskilling talent to drive regional and global company expansion, ultimately creating more job opportunities and economic growth in Africa.