Digital literacy is a non-negotiable

Image of Earth from space and digitisation

The African education system faces a raft of challenges. Across the continent, students are faced with a variety of issues – and accessibility to good education is a major stumbling block.

According to Juliette Fourie, MD of Metro Minds, the need for training in the logistics sector is critical.“ The trends shaping the future of logistics in Africa are digitisation, closing the urban and rural divide, and the increase of business-to-business companies. Innovation lies in the way the platforms and processes are created to match supply to the demand, aligning to certain skill sets needed to keep up with the trends,” she explains. “With the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on January 1, the free movement of goods, services and people is aimed at reducing tariffs and kick-starting the entire sector.

Again, digital literacy becomes a much-needed skill of the future as African e-logistics companies play a massive role in reducing transport costs and delays. With more and more rail and port concessions happening, the skills demand to understand this from a holistic continent view, will become increasingly important.”

She says it is imperative to move away from the traditional approach to learning and skills development. “The traditional aim of any higher education institution is to ensure learning retention and knowledge gain happens in preparation for a productive work life – not working with artificial intelligence and robotics. Traditional education for undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate will remain, but adult learning linked to the future workplace and occupations needs to be given more attention.”

Lifelong learning is crucial

Learning, says Fourie, simply cannot stop because the institutional learning cycle comes to an end. “Education as we know it is very important, but it is not enough to carry us through the transformation of a more automated world and economy. Lifelong learning and upskilling are of utmost importance to adapt to the ever-changing content of work and life. Lifelong learning is no longer only reserved for a few ambitious individuals, it is a necessity to survive the changes in the workplace and upskill for jobs of the future.”

To cater for lifelong learning, African countries could tap into sector-specific qualifications through a hybrid model of learning.“We have found that leadership development and sales management, in particular, are becoming more and more popular in the growth of these critical skills in the African continent,” says Fourie. “Countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, Nigeria, Egypt, Tanzania and Namibia are becoming more and more interested in aligning to better skills development. As for specialisation in Freight Forwarding and Customs Compliance, the BCom with electives in the latter is a perfect way of upskilling the continent. This Bachelor’s degree can be attended by anyone globally as the learning methodology focuses on micro-learning virtual sessions with a distance learning component.”

According to Fourie, the interconnectedness between South African companies and their African counterparts should be the link to increase skills and knowledge within their network. “Only a few African countries have formal skills development initiatives like the Skills Development Act and targets driven like in South Africa. The initiatives are driven more by non-profit organisations and public institutions, with very little alignment to industries. Vocational education is seen as a fallback option when a matriculant is not good enough to attend university. This alludes to a larger skills gap for an industry like logistics and freight forwarding.” She maintains that the drive for skills development should be pushed from the south to align skills strategies and obtain benchmarked skills levels.

Untapped employment opportunity

“A career in freight forwarding and clearing is not often talked about. There is an untapped employment opportunity in the sector for medium-skilled to high-skilled individuals,” she says. “Understanding this industry’s aspects and activities, and finding the best logistics solutions for international buyers and sellers, requires a broad scope of skills. The importance of this sector is underestimated, and more attention should be given when planning skills and development. The sector connects and coordinates a global system of almost every industry that exists.” Fourie says there are still significant skills gaps in the logistics sector. Compared to sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa, South Africa’s performance is far above the continent’s performance. This could help drive skills development strategies from South Africa into the rest of Africa, according to Fourie.

Recommended Posts