Panellists considered how to unleash the potential of South Africa’s digital job market.
In a thought-provoking CIO Day panel discussion at the The Leonardo, one of the tallest buildings in Africa on 6 July, industry leaders gathered to address the pressing issue of skills shortage in South Africa’s tech industry.
With a shared vision of exponential growth and unlocking the nation’s potential, the panellists emphasised the importance of collaboration, innovative thinking, and strategic investments. They also highlighted the need to bridge the gap between training and job opportunities and explore new avenues for collective progress.
Vision for Collective X
Mteto Nyati, the executive chairman of BSG, introduced Collective X, an ecosystem aimed at accelerating the growth of digital jobs and igniting South Africa’s potential. Mteto emphasised the collective responsibility of individuals and organisations to address the national crisis and collaborate to overcome the challenges in the tech industry.
He says by pooling together ideas, best practices, and resources, the industry can work smarter and remove the blockages that hinder progress. “We can do all the training we want, but if we don’t give young people the opportunity to learn on the job, we won’t move. As this community we need to look at how we will integrate people being trained.”
Embracing early adopters and scaling success
Collective X plans to find early adopters who are willing to join forces with industry colleagues. These pioneers will form a cohort that collaborates to draft an execution plan, which can then be scaled to drive impactful change.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, Collective X aims to identify existing initiatives that are proven to work and amplify their impact. To achieve this, the support and buy-in of CIOs and CEOs operating in South Africa are crucial.
Vukani Mngxati, the CEO of Accenture Africa, stressed the need for an abundance mindset when addressing the skills crisis. Vukani acknowledged the growing skills shortage, with many individuals emigrating or virtually emigrating due to limited opportunities.
To fix this issue, Vukani highlighted the importance of building capacity within organisations to execute the work that is desperately needed. By collaborating and leveraging collective capabilities and skills, South Africa can change the bigger picture and foster the growth of visionaries and thought leaders through education.
He said, “We have to be deliberate about the skills and quality standard we want for South Africa and work towards systematically achieving that.”
Ziaad Suleman, the CCO of EOH, stressed the need for multifaceted solutions to the complex challenges faced in the tech industry. Recognising the diverse demands for skills like robotics, AI, and development, Ziaad advocated for a strategic approach to attract investment and build capacity in these areas.
By fostering an ecosystem of suppliers supporting skills development, South Africa can strengthen its position in the market and solve challenges collectively. Ziaad also emphasised the importance of private-public partnerships, involving the government in initiatives like Collective X to address regulatory issues and qualifications.
Nicola Galombik, the executive director of Yellowoods, expressed her confidence in the collective endeavour to address South Africa’s challenges. Nicola drew parallels with countries like India, which have overcome socio-economic issues through business-led initiatives.
Nicola highlighted the critical role of South African businesses in leveraging their assets, collaborating with young talent, and considering young people as an asset rather than a liability. She said, “We can tend to treat our young people as a problem, not as an asset. Unemployment is a systemic issue, not a reflection of individual talent or capability.”
Building capability and leadership
The panellists acknowledged the importance of building capabilities alongside core work. By hiring and supporting young South Africans, businesses can make transformative impacts on salaries and the overall economy.
However, leadership plays a crucial role in driving change and inspiring others to follow suit. Early adopters are needed to spearhead collective efforts, and collaboration must be managed like a systems integration process, effectively bringing teams together for maximum impact.
Addressing challenges and unlocking resources
The panel discussion also highlighted some of the challenges faced in the industry. It was noted that some CIOs, for instance, are reluctant to allow new entrants to experiment with tools, highlighting the need for a shift in mindset to encourage innovation.
Additionally, there is a gap in coaching, mentoring, and skills development at the middle level, which needs to be addressed to nurture young talent. To avoid constantly recruiting from other markets, it is crucial to prioritise work-integrated learning and provide opportunities for trained individuals to gain competence.
The panellists agreed that successful skills programmes need to be strategic and adequately resourced. They drew inspiration from industries like medical school, where young graduates are trusted and integrated into systems seamlessly. By learning from such industries and adopting their models, the tech sector can effectively integrate young talent and build a sustainable pipeline of skilled professionals.
“By harnessing breakthrough solutions and providing an environment conducive to learning, the country can unlock its true potential,” said Nicola.
Through initiatives like Collective X, fostering an abundance mindset, and strategic partnerships, the panellists emphasised the importance of working together to unlock the nation’s potential. They asserted that by viewing young people as an asset and providing them with opportunities for growth, South Africa can create a thriving ecosystem of digital skills and position itself as a global leader in technology and innovation.
This exclusive day was supported by CIO South Africa’s Principal partners EOH, Makwa IT and Liquid Intelligent Technologies. Executive partners were BCX and Workday, and Associate partners were Communication Genetics, OneConnect, iiDENTIFii, Perpetuuiti, and SAS.