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Rapidly Growing Digital Economies Offer Opportunity for South African Youth


In a small boardroom in downtown Johannesburg, 20 young South Africans are making a racket. Hip-hop is blaring, they’re sitting and chatting and surfing the web, surrounded by a mess of laptops and coffee cups. Walk in and you would guess it’s a college common room between classes–informal, caffeine-infused, and spirited.

In reality, this hothouse of youth is a hub of practical learning. Twenty burgeoning young professionals preparing their move from career zero to industry hero in ten weeks flat. What separates them from the millions of others in this familiar post-school setting is a distinct advantage: their rapidly developed knowledge of digital marketing. This is Digify.

Digify is a digital marketing boot camp that in ten weeks, turns a young person with a passion for online media—often with no previous work experience—into a junior digital marketing professional. Through this program, young people are prepared to meet the ever-increasing demand from South African companies for search media experts, skilled web analysts, user experience designers, and engineers. And with increasing demand for digital skills constantly emerging, herein lies an opportunity.

“Youth unemployment is a global epidemic. In South Africa, it feels intractable, with an economy in reverse and an education system that fails most students all the way from primary to tertiary school.”

You don’t need to be an economist to realize that youth unemployment is a global epidemic. In South Africa, like many other places on the continent, it feels intractable, with an economy in reverse and an education system that fails most students all the way from primary to tertiary school. So how can we break through this immovable object? One clue, we believe, is to employ an unstoppable force: the rise of demand for digital skills.

At the nexus of a dynamic youth population and rapidly growing digital economies lies an opportunity. From Lagos to Rabat, Durban to Nairobi, Africa’s economies—and its youth population—continue to rapidly grow. At the same time, digital technology is creating opportunities for new kinds of jobs and new ways of working.

The challenge? Disproportionate access to these opportunities. The laid-back cool of Nairobi’s iHub and the mad crush of its Eastleigh neighborhood can seem worlds apart, and yet in both places the ubiquity of digital technology and the palpable ambition of its young people are evident. But the leveling of the playing field will not happen on its own.

It requires a deliberate effort to map the job opportunities created in the growing digital ecosystem and an intentional focus on engaging young people who’d otherwise be overlooked and active engagement with employers to map their current needs, anticipate future trajectories and embed a commitment to diversity and inclusion as sound business practice. This approach—a practice called impact sourcing—is a more inclusive way of conducting business, and it creates opportunities for both business benefits and social impact.

Livity Africa is discovering the merits of Digify’s holistic approach first-hand. This program has been so successful to date that Digify graduates are not only being placed into paid digital marketing positions, but nearly 100 percent of them still working ever six to nine months later.

As this program scales in South Africa—and possibly expands beyond—Livity is exploring how to deliver the same caliber of digital skills training but in a shorter, sharper burst to accelerate thousands of job seekers towards careers. This program, “Digify Bytes,” is a focused, two-day immersive of the full three-month experience, delivered by trained Digify graduates.

Across Africa, and consequently many lives being improved,  Africa’s future workforce becoming better equipped for latter opportunities, and ultimately ready to play their part in strengthening their economies.

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