South Africa has twelve months to start bridging the tech skills shortage, says professional services company Accenture.
“Not too long ago, I read an alarming piece on how our technology skills shortage has changed from a valley into a canyon. The conclusion was those who have the skills have become as rare a commodity as Rhodium and can ply their trade anywhere.
“That leaves South Africa in a tough position as we are competing in a global market for people who are versed in niche technology disciplines such cloud technology, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality,” said Kgomotso Lebele, MD for Technology at Accenture in Africa.
Accenture research suggests that the cost of inaction is staggering. Over the next decade, fourteen G20 countries could miss as much as $11.5 trillion of cumulative growth promised by intelligent technologies – if they cannot meet future skills demand.
That equates to forgoing more than an entire percentage point from their annual average GDP growth rate every year, said Lebele.
How serious is the tech skills shortage in South Africa?
The comprehensive 2021 JCSE-IITPSA ICT Skills Survey found that the top priority skills listed by employers participating in the survey overall were
- Cyber security;
- Big data analytics;
- Artificial intelligence;
- Application development;
- Data management;
- Test automation/performance testing;
- Internet of things; and
“The upshot of this data is as digital adoption accelerates against a welcome backdrop of the democratisation of IT, tomorrow is too late, and we need to move with more speed than we thought we were capable of,” said Lebele.
He said that with a cooperative and collegial industry-wide strategy, South Africa can, in time, become a significant supplier of tech skills to the global market with a focus on bringing insourced jobs into Africa instead of relying on outsourcing tech project work.
“If we could create ten thousand jobs in the tech space in the next five years, we would be a long way in achieving a successful landing on both wheels. Some estimates say South Africa has around 500,000 ICT employees, with 50% employed within the ICT sector.”
More skills development has a direct impact, therefore, on national growth.
Disturbing hiring trend emerging in South Africa
“I believe we have about a year to seriously recalibrate our thinking when it comes to tech skills; to seed more deeply the conversation, and to produce more industry-wide collective thinking. Failure to do so simply relegates us lower in the global competitiveness tables,” he said.
Financial service provider Absa Group, like many other big banks in the country, has pointed to a skills shortage in the tech industry at a time of advanced digital migration.
At a recent event held at one of Absa’s Johannesburg offices, data scientists from Zindi, a professional network for data scientists, joined a discussion about the critical role that data science and data analytics play in the fast-changing financial services industry.
“South Africa is experiencing a data scientist shortage,” said Gavin Cope, head: Consumer Product Data, Everyday Banking at Absa.
“By collaborating with networks like Zindi, we hope to not only provide young people with critical skills but also foster and retain data science talent in the technology sector.”
The data science skillset is not fixed and is rapidly evolving as new opportunities in data analysis and further technological advances redefine the specific skills composition of data scientist roles.
Data science skills are in high demand not only in the technology sector but also in other sectors such as media and entertainment, financial services, and professional services, said Absa.
“Technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing the very nature of jobs, as well as the skills required to perform them at an increasing rate,” said Wilhelm Krige, interim group information and technology officer at Absa.
Read: South Africa is facing another skills crisis
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