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OP-ED: Digital Skills For Youth Will be a Must in the Post Pandemic Era

"Youth need to acquire critical digital skills to survive in the post-pandemic era," MTN General Manager Corporate Affairs, Ms. Enid Edroma.

My fifteen-year-old niece Janet has a passion for dancing. Quite often, she dances in front of her phone recording the whole session. Once out of curiosity I asked what she does with all the videos she records. She responded, “ I dance and upload to my Tik Tok account. I want to grow my account such that I can one day become a big-time influencer.”

Influencers today earn a minimum of UGX100,000 to promote a show, program, product, or service. It is an even better cheque if you deal in content creation. These sectors are ripe in Uganda currently as different applications crop up and the drive towards digitization for businesses intensifies.

These opportunities along with many other digital fortuities could be one of the solutions to Uganda’s aging challenge of unemployment amongst the youth.

There is however a need for skills and capacity training. Take for instance my niece Janet, skills in professional content creation would be a major addition to her life. There are also opportunities online for people to do transcribing, freelance writing gigs among others. The internet is a pool of opportunities.

Gone are the days of only being book smart. You need useable life skills.

On July 15th, 2021 was the World Youth Skills Day, and the theme was reimagining youth skills post-pandemic. This to me has digital skills written all over it. If the pandemic proved anything, it is that the internet and digitization stopped a possible hemorrhage of the global economy. It also proved that digital is the future.

Youth need to acquire critical digital skills to survive in the post-pandemic era.

Digital skills are unavoidable in today’s world be it business, law, sciences, etc. However, these skills are not commonly taught in school so it is imperative that third parties play a part to fill this gap.

At MTN, youth empowerment and skilling have been a priority area in our Corporate Social Responsibility since 2018. This is because we recognize that the youth consists of almost three-quarters of the population and therefore hold a big stake in the future of the economy.

The focus on youth empowerment is to address the overarching issues of unemployment and contribute towards some of the Sustainable Development Goals for instance (SDGs) 1 which aims at eliminating poverty, SDG 5 targeting Gender equality and SDG 8 focusing on decent work and economic growth among others.

To make this a reality, MTN Foundation, MTN Uganda’s Corporate Social Responsibility arm in 2018 supported Enabel to enhance digital skilling in vocational institutions of Amelo VTI in Adjumani, St Simon Peter VTI in Hoima, and St Daniel Polytechnical in Moroto.

To date, 950 vocational learners have benefited from the ICT facilities set up in the institutions.

Under the Y’ello Care program, which is the MTN Uganda annual employee volunteerism program, the Foundation equipped and skilled youth groups in KCCA. These include the Kawempe Youth Development Association, Youth Empowerment Support Organisation (YESO) in Kyebando, Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) in Makindye, Eco-action Banda in Nakawa, and Quarter Zone Youth Project in Lubanga.

In 2020, in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic, MTN Foundation launched the MTN Youth Skilling Program with the goal of empowering youth to become job creators while solving challenges in society. During the program which is currently still ongoing, 100 participants were equipped with digital skills, business skills including bookkeeping, taxation among others.

In fact, MTN Foundation is further shining the limelight on youth empowerment under its new strategy with a key focus on readying the demographic for the Fourth Industrial revolution (4.0)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) can be understood as the way advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, automation, and machine learning are being fused into human lives and causing disruption.

Slow as it may be in Africa, the 4IR is slowly sipping its way into the bedrock of society. Hence it is critical at this particular moment to acquaint our youth with digital skills which are relevant in 4.0.

We have all seen the impact of digitization through innovation on job creation and the efficiency of business systems. SafeBoda today employs over 10,000 boda riders. That is only the beginning. There is a lot more potential.

The silver lining to the vast limitations Uganda faces as a country is an opportunity for innovation, especially amongst the youth. At MTN, we are dedicating our focus to tapping into the creativity of the youth to develop solutions to societal challenges and equipping them with skills that are necessary to keep those solutions alive for decades.

It has become an anthem in the business world that most Ugandan businesses do not live past one year. It is time to change those lyrics to create a new chant and that is through equipping our youth with useable skills to keep their businesses alive.

Editor’s Note: This article is been written by MTN General Manager Corporate Affairs, Ms. Enid Edroma.

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