Slow progress in youth digital skills development stalls progress in SA

The future of work is digital and it’s time we get serious about creating the exact systems we need to make that happen.

So says one of the South Africa’s leading skills development organisations, Afrika Tikkun Services.

The time for the brick-and-mortar professional has come and gone, and with traditional jobs and ways of working becoming obsolete without an informal technology related upgrade, South Africa has no time for conceptualising with no action.

The demand for more globally relevant skills has not been isolated to the tech industry but has spread to all other sectors of the economy.

South Africa’s youth (age 15-24) accounts for 35% of the population. This gives the country a unique opportunity to lead Africa and the rest of the world in changing society’s perspective on education. No longer based on a finite number of years spent at a traditional institution, education has been decentralised in line with the fourth industrial revolution. This means that skills development is no longer the job of large institutions and an antiquated public and private education system.

Afrika Tikkun Services (ATS), has been at the forefront of innovation in the digital skills development arena through partnerships with private and state institutions. As a community-based youth and skills development organisation, our experience has taught us that multi-sectoral partnerships create better and faster results.

ATS is calling for more such partnerships across the different sectors of the economy.


The challenges South African youth face, such as a gap in educational quality and a failure for traditional institutions to produce the skills demanded by the economy are a risk to the economy. An aging workforce and a growing population of unskilled or poorly skilled youth means that even the immediate future of the economy in South Africa is uncertain. However, there are glimmers of hope in the trends we have seen where parts of the economy have been growing in leaps and bounds.

The revolution has already begun

The past year, like previous years, has reinforced how the tech industry feeds into every part of the economy and as such is the new growth frontier for small and medium businesses.

We need to encourage young people, the people who teach them, the people that employ them and those that raise them to take digital skills development seriously. Trends have demonstrated that economic recovery has heavily relied on entrepreneurship. We need more young people hiring young people. A robust and multi-sectoral digital skills revolution is needed in order to create workers who will be hired and entrepreneurs who will go on to create jobs as they empower themselves and their communities.

Over the last year, a partnership between ATS and digital giant Naspers’ subsidiary Naspers Labs which culminated in a successful youth development programme and placement project which taps directly into the country’s future economic needs.

The initiative has empowered and trained over 350 young people with highly demanded digital. We also supported 50 youths aged between 16 and 21 years through our youth accelerator programme to gain skills in digital literacy that would better position them for the future of work in the fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

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