Nowadays, having an edge in the digital world can promote development and open up international horizons. This emphasizes the importance of accepting the reality of the digital economy and its evolution, at a time when digital currencies and electronic payments are becoming increasingly popular and when artificial intelligence and innovations are advancing rapidly. This new economy is well on the way to modifying and even eliminating certain jobs. But it will also give rise to others, the so-called jobs “of tomorrow.” I propose the following course of action to provide better skills training to young Africans in my country.
First, the Government must come to terms with the fact that the digital economy is closely tied to the education economy, and that the education system in Senegal needs to be modernized. One can be qualified without having the right skills. Well, it is precisely this distinction that makes the difference on the job market, both locally and internationally. It is imperative, therefore, that young people be properly equipped for the workplace, especially by placing less emphasis on theory at places of study and assigning greater weight to practical instruction. In other words, the theoretical knowledge imparted during skills training should, at the end of the day, have practical application.
Second, since we are talking about digital technology, we will need proper infrastructure and well-trained instructors. Moreover, young people must be introduced, from a very early age, to the use of new information and communications technologies (NICT), and this concept must be embedded in the education system (it could also be called “new information and communications technologies for the advancement of education” or NICTE).
Third, we must be fully aware that good intentions alone will not be enough. The necessary resources must be provided if we are to achieve these objectives, even if, at times, we have to make sacrifices in other areas. Our political leaders should steer clear of non-productive investments and take on board the importance of investing in human capital (as mentioned in the World Bank report, Human Capital Project). While we acknowledge the efforts made recently to promote digital technology, there is still a lot of work to be done to counter some of the short-term policies that we so often adopt to our detriment and that impede our development.
Shoring up our education system, placing less emphasis on theory, encouraging the use of digital technology and, above all, having confidence in the cost-effectiveness of investing in human capital are just some of the factors that will help promote the development of our continent. This process should, of course, go hand in hand with a clear understanding that fostering new mindsets and social change are essential components for the success of the project. Indeed, a successful outcome will depend on our ability to take wise and tough decisions, and to figure out the internal and external dynamics involved in transforming our weaknesses into strengths, while taking account of opportunities and threats. If we are to be ready for and adapt to tomorrow’s jobs, we must fight the tendency to reject innovation, and focus on promoting a good command of digital technology. It is time for our continent, and our country, to think of ourselves as leaders and to act as such.
Diouck Ndeye Anta, a Senegalese national, is a winner of the World Bank Africa 2019 Blog4Dev regional competition.