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The International Finance Corporation (IFC), in cooperation with L.E.K. Consulting released a new report showing the demand for digital skills in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow at a faster rate than in other markets.

The report estimates that 230 million jobs in the region will require these skills by 2030, presenting investors and education operators with an estimated $130 billion opportunity to train the future workforce in digital skills.

IFC launched the report, Digital Skills in Sub-Saharan Africa: Spotlight on Ghana, at the group’s office in Accra, Ghana. Nearly $4 billion of the opportunity in digital skills will be in Ghana.

The report sheds light on the crucial need for digital skills as a driver of economic growth and competitiveness across sectors in the region—from agriculture to services.

The demand for digital skills is evolving and presents opportunities for different stakeholders to play a role, particularly the private sector.

The report finds that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is reshaping the skills that will be required for the future workforce.

The study also found that digital skills are central, alongside ‘21st century’ social and behavioural skills, like critical thinking and communication.

Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Vice-President for Middle East and Africa, said: “Approaches to learning should be reconsidered so people in emerging markets can work and live well in an era of rapid technological change. The digital skills sector in sub-Saharan Africa is ripe for private sector investment and participation.”

Training opportunity for digital skills

Ashwin Assomull, Partner in L.E.K.’s Global Education practice, said: “The report demonstrates innovative ways private education providers and investors to tap into the massive training opportunity over the next decade. A relentless focus on student outcomes and technology industry alignment is critical to the success of these programmes.”

Respondents to a survey estimate that about half of jobs on the continent require some digital skills and note that demand for these skills will rise more quickly in Africa than in other regions.

This demand is driven both by rapid economic growth in Africa—home to three of the world’s top five fastest-growing economies—as well as the digitisation and automation of its agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors.

Although these skills are perceived among the top seven skills for the future of the global workforce, the study finds that they are undersupplied globally and most particularly in Africa.

Ghana to drive digitally-skilled labour

The study found that supply of digitally-skilled labour in sub-Saharan Africa and Ghana must increase to meet anticipated market needs or Africa’s economies will falter.

Around 80% of industry participants interviewed believe that an undersupply in these skills would hamper expected economic growth, and nearly 20% of Ghanaian companies surveyed recruit only internationally for digital skills, largely because they cannot find skilled local talent.

The study concludes with a call to action: the private sector must play a pivotal role in addressing the challenges in digital skills.

This challenge can be met through proven models with potential to scale and to offer lessons to other innovative providers willing to make inroads in the space.