Vikash Rameshar, Lecturer of Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technology of UJ; Kian Chen, Deputy CEO for Huawei South Africa; Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation and Nigel Olin, Acting Deputy Principal Registration Services of Motheo TVET College, at the launch yesterday.

By JAPHET NCUBE in Johannesburg

SOUTH Africa is facing severe ICT skills shortage and there is growing fear this deficit will impact the country’s economy.

This is according to a Huawei and EY backed whitepaper released this week, sounding warning bells on talent in the tech space.

The whitepaper says the ICT skills gap in SA is worrying, and can potentially derail gains from around 20 000 ICT companies that contribute 8% percent to the country’s GDP.

The launch event, which took place at Huawei’s Johannesburg campus, also saw the company launch its 2022-2023 ICT competition, which aims to help foster local and global ICT talent.

According to the paper, SA ICT sector is overwhelmed by challenges, including budgetary, infrastructure, services, and skills constraints.

These, the whitepaper says, have sharpened the ever-expanding adoption of emerging fourth-industrial-revolution.

On skills, the paper says: “There is a great demand to technology skills in South Africa, however supply falls short which endangers the digital economy and 4IR progress.”

Adding to the crisis, the paper says, is the continuous and increasing brain drain resulting in loss of key ICT talent through emigration.

The red flag on ICT skills comes at a time when there is a growing number of unemployed people in the country, with the unemployment rate at 35.3%, with 7.9 million people being unemployed.

To take the edge off, focus had been shifted towards the fourth-industrial-revolution, to potential absorb some and reduce joblessness.

For the principals of the whitepaper, the country needs to act with urgency to address the matter.

Huawei SA deputy CEO Kian Chen.

Kian Chen, deputy CEO for Huawei SA warns stakeholders “to take action” now as the “gaps and demands of ICT talent supply have been recognised”.

He adds: “I would like to use this opportunity to call for closer collaboration between government, academia, and the ICT industry to explore the possibility of more ICT talent development programmes so that more young people gain exposure to technology and are empowered to innovate using new technologies and platforms.”

Buti Manamela, deputy minister of higher education, science and innovation, spoke at the launch.

Concurring, Buti Manamela, deputy minister of higher education, science and innovation, comments: “….the reality is that government cannot do it on its own. We need increased partnerships and collaboration with the private sector, not only in terms of resources, but also policy interventions that will go a long way in helping to address youth unemployment and contribute to the development of scarce and future skills.

“We must be deliberate in addressing the challenges of digital transformation and our efforts should be aimed at using the available knowledge and digital infrastructure to ensure that we mitigate, rather than exacerbate, existing digital inequities.”

Angelika Goliger, chief economist and Sub-Saharan Africa representative for EY’s Geostrategic Business Group.

Angelika Goliger, chief economist and Sub-Saharan Africa representative for EY’s Geostrategic Business Group, sees this talent deficit is ticking time bomb that can also blow up the economy.

“The lack of ICT skills in South Africa has put a ceiling on the ICT sector and its potential to drive economic growth.

“While this was largely driven by the pandemic and a need to move business, education, and other areas of life online, ICT has become an indelible part of every industry in the country, from agriculture to mining and financial service”.

In addition to the whitepaper, Huawei’s launched its 2022-2023 ICT Competition for South Africa.

The Global competition is one of the largest ICT events in the world, attracting tens of thousands of entrants from around the globe.

It is aimed at driving the development of ICT talent for industry growth and digital transformation and is a crucial element of Huawei’s talent ecosystem, which seeks to address the skills shortage in the sector.

Explained Chen: “Through Huawei’s ICT Competition, we aim to enhance the knowledge and practical skills of ICT students and create a workforce that meets both current and future needs.

“As of now, qualifying Huawei ICT Academy graduates can begin their application process. We will also work with our university and college partners to encourage student participation because we believe that South African students can compete on the global finals stage.” – Zambezi News

To read the full ICT Talent Whitepaper, click here:

ICT Competition application, click here: