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In a move highlighting the expanding interest of major international players in Africa's burgeoning tech marketplace, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has unveiled the first Amazon Web Services Skills Center outside of the USA, in South Africa.
This move is poised to accelerate the growth of digital expertise throughout the region.
The skills centre, located in Cape Town, has spaces for in-person learning and discovery and will be an open, free training centre for anyone in the local community who is curious about cloud computing and future job possibilities in the cloud.
The facility includes eight immersive exhibits designed for visitors to delve into real-world applications of cloud technology. An Amazon press statement describing the launch characterised the center as a space "to provide free training that empowers non-technical learners to develop new cloud skills and unlock career paths within the thriving tech industry."
Maureen Lonergan, the Vice President overseeing Training and Certification, adds that the facility will also "provide career coaching and networking events to connect learners with career information and job opportunities."
Amazon is not the only large company looking to bridge skills gaps on the continent. Numerous companies, from African regional banks to telcom companies, have established initiatives and programs that prioritise tech skills training and certification.
Despite the African continent accounting for only 1% of the global public cloud market and having a cloud penetration rate of only 15%, the market has doubled in the past three years. It is expected to keep growing at 17% to 20% per annum, according to research firm, SAP. Amazon Web Services (AWS) which provides cloud-based solutions, is a key component of the US company's growth strategy and the upside potential in Africa is clearly an important draw for the company.
Tony Asehinde, founder of Lagos-based Digital Marketing Skills Institute — an organisation leveraging digital technologies to expedite the growth of digitally skilled professionals — explained the extent to which Amazon's services would be key to future internet-based business in Africa.
"Cloud computing entails the delivery of various computing services, such as servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence, over the internet," he said.
A 2023 report by the World Economic Forum on the Future of Jobs estimates that 60% of organisations featured in the report are grappling with various skill gaps. The report further predicts a substantial demand for diverse skills training, projecting that 60% of workers will require training by 2027.
Cloud computing training is particularly impactful in Africa, where its youthful and rapidly expanding population is leading the charge in acquiring tech skills. This aligns with global trends that place digital skills at the forefront of skills acquisition for the workplace.
Beyond its educational offerings, the new centre in Cape Town will also bring substantial economic benefits to South Africa, according to the company.
Amazon has committed to an investment of R46 billion (US $2.5 billion) in South Africa between 2018 and 2029. By 2022, it had already injected some R15.6 billion (US$790 million) into the country, the company said.
According to a 2023 economic impact study commissioned by AWS, the investment will contribute some R80 billion (US$4.2 billion) to the gross domestic product of South Africa in the same period (from 2018 to 2029).
According to Asehinde, re-skilling and up-skilling initiatives have the potential to make a profound and lasting impact on the future of work on the continent.
"Ultimately, it's about dismantling barriers … It will enable Africans to tap into global opportunities," he explained.
"A tech expert anywhere in Africa will be capable of performing tasks as effectively as those in developed countries that have long been pioneers in tech adoption," he concluded.
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