• Sat. Apr 17th, 2021

Africa’s workforce for the mobile age


Africa mobile

No doubt, the growth of mobile technology continues to redefine the concept of borders and the search for indigenous or foreign-based talent.


Africa’s working population is expected to double by 2020 and become the world’s largest working population by 2040. The majority of those new employees will have grown up with mobile devices and will expect to work in the highly flexible and always-on way that these devices enable.

As Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria seats at the apex of this looming challenge (or opportunity). This makes it critical for Nigerian businesses to support initiatives aimed at closing skill gaps, particularly in mobile, cloud and the intersection of these technologies.

Businesses looking to bolster in-house app development teams should consider formal and informal training programs, particularly to leverage the innate mobility of young, tech-savvy employees.


Large corporations and small sized firms cannot afford to take an ad hoc approach to up-skilling and re-skilling for the mobile economy. They should focus on rigorous methods that provide clear and practical training on how to use mobile to boost individuals’ productivity and innovation.

More than 10 universities in the Middle East and Africa region now offer a mobile development and strategy curriculum developed by IBM experts, graduating students who are armed with the not only the developer know-how, but also a deep understanding of how that expertise fits into wider business strategies. Existing employees looking to round out their development skills also have access to the Africa Technical Academy – five-day training programs that offer hands-on experience in not only mobile app development, but its relationships with Big Data, analytics and security intelligence.

Our nation’s largely young population is expected to be an asset to our macroeconomic goals and social re-engineering ambitions. By catching these rising stars on the way up and offering meaningful, business-focused talent development, organisations can ensure that employees have the skills needed to meet today’s business objectives, but also lay a solid pipeline for future growth.

Technology is a wheel that reinvents itself at each turn, and those turns are coming more quickly than ever. Businesses must also reinvent themselves to define or maintain their competitive edge. As for the mobile-focused regions of the Middle East and Africa, that edge is intrinsically tied to application development, management and strategy.

Driven by the strategic human resource management objectives of an organization, workforce development and management for the mobile age will benefit from a global-minded, collaborative approach involving the Human Resource, Technology and other relevant sections of the enterprise. When nurturing mobile development skills, businesses must think globally. In today’s connected society, developers are not creating apps solely for their business or country.


An application developed in Nigeria or Ghana may catch the attention of Silicon Valley, especially as the increasing number of open data initiatives fosters greater collaboration and integration. In a growing number of cases, developers in one country are creating apps and solutions specifically for those in others. To use a specific example, EME International, an Egyptian mobile solutions company, has worked with IBM to develop bespoke mobile solutions for customers in neighbouring countries, such as a banking app for Barwa Bank in Qatar.

Thinking beyond the code and utilizing open-source platforms allows developers to have a hand in creating the future – offering the services, runtimes, and infrastructure needed to bring their ideas to life. A growing number of start-up groups are prioritizing open-source mobile and cloud platforms to lay the foundations for fast, cross-border scalability.

Mobile start-up incubator M-Lab East Africa, for example, encourages its members to use the open-source IBM Softlayer cloud platform: scalability is particularly relevant given the group’s members focus on large-scale challenges in agriculture, health, and education. EME International’s client engagement app is also hosted on Softlayer, helping it to offer the app to global firms including one leading automotive brand.

An agile, experimental environment speeds up the development process and enables application developers to test new capabilities efficiently. This enables a cycle of continuous learning that drives exponential innovation and growth. African enterprises and developers must remember that once their projects reach an app store, they’re competing on the world stage – and have the necessary skills and infrastructure to manage potentially global demand.

Staying ahead of the curve requires continuous learning – and even if you’re on top of mobile experience or learning curve now, your stay may be short-lived without it. Developers and enterprises must embrace this learning process, and begin exploring the entwined relationship between mobile and other critical domains including Big Data, analytics, security and Cloud.


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