By Austine Omeno
There is no doubt that Kenya is in the midst of an unemployment crisis. However even as we face this challenge, there is a ray of hope in the tech sector. The tech sector is proving resilient and is backing the trend. The tech sector in the last few years has become a dominant employer, more so through self-employment.
While various sectors of the economy grapple with challenges, such as significant job losses that come at a time when there is a high supply of workers, the tech industry, particularly in coding, confronts a distinct dilemma: a pressing demand against a limited pool of proficient and seasoned computer programmers.
This surge in demand for skilled coding talent has ignited fierce competition between Silicon Valley giants, established local industry leaders, and ambitious startups, each vying to secure a share of the limited pool of highly skilled tech professionals.
The young Kenyans in the meantime are enjoying the spoils of this tech labor war through highly competitive remuneration packages.
Furthermore, owing to the rapid evolution within the technology sector, the demand for highly skilled tech professionals is projected to surge both on a local and global scale, offering an even broader spectrum of career opportunities for our youth.
Blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), quantum computing, and other emerging technologies are fueling this growing demand for skilled tech labor.
Locally, the Government, as stated in the Kenya Digital Blueprint (2022-2032), has recognised the transformative potential of these emerging technologies.
Kenya’s Digital Blueprint states that these emerging technologies have the transformational potential of automating administrative procedures and digitizing health records, predicting a significant improvement in healthcare delivery.
Food security will be strengthened by the implementation of agricultural information systems that seamlessly connect governmental organizations, farmers, and agro-businesses. Additionally, it is predicted that digitizing land records will reduce fraud and unlock untapped wealth.
Needless to say, to make all of these possibilities come true, there has to be a massive investment in skilled labor. This is why educational institutions, from the elementary to the tertiary levels, must invest in coding skills.
Our educational institutions must also invest resources in preparing students for the ancillary services required to support this transformational project, in addition to coding expertise.
For example, Kenya will have to invest in infrastructure such as data centers. This presents an opportunity for skilled labor that will be needed to install all the hardware and networking needed.
To fasten this transformational journey learning institutions should partner with industry stakeholders so that there is immediate and relevant skills transfer. Companies, be they in consumer electronics, database management, software engineering, or networking, can partner with universities, and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions, and to custom-make curricula that are relevant to the industry needs.
This is why at Eastlands College of Technology we decided to partner with Samsung Electronics East Africa to develop and execute the Samsung Innovation Campus programme where we will be running a specially designed curriculum focused on technology development. Our students will acquire special skills in AI, IoT, Big Data, Coding and Programming. This programme that is specially designed by Samsung Electronics also trains participants on a range of soft skills to foster talented youth who will go on to shape our future society.
Through this partnership, not only do we hope to also strengthen our Dual Training System , but we also hope to bridge the gap between conventional academic content and the dynamic demands of the tech industry to cultivate key human resources that will lead the 4th Industrial revolution.
If our Silicon Savannah should compete with existing tech hubs like Silicon Valley, Bangalore, Shenzhen, Dublin (Silicon Docks), Tokyo, Taipei, and Seoul in becoming global innovation powerhouses, then we need to be prepared. We need to have a radical mind shift. We need to invest and be ready to walk the talk. As TVETs, we have a crucial role to play that will be determined by the strategic partnerships we seek.
The Author is the Principal of The Eastlands College of Technology, a project of Strathmore Educational Trust