The mismatch between the skills young people have and the skills needed for future jobs widens as the demand for professionals with specific 21st century skills grows in the age of artificial intelligence. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this skills gap due to huge learning losses incurred during school closures.
21st century skills such as critical thinking, creativity and digital literacy are necessary in today’s world of science, technology and innovation. African girls and young women need to keep up with the lightning pace of modern labor markets, if they do not want to be left behind.
Evidence is already pointing to large losses among girls, as they were not able to access continued learning during the pandemic. According to the World Economic Forum (2020), creativity is one skill that even artificial intelligence cannot replicate.
There is also a lot of emphasis on developing other soft skills such as communication, collaboration, self-reliance, and teamwork.
Additionally, over half of the job activities that currently exist today are projected to no longer be needed in 2055 according to McKinsey (2019). By then, Africans will comprise around 25% of the world’s working population (The Economist, 2020).
It is estimated that the continent will contribute 1.3 billion of the 2 billion increase in the global population by 2050, ½ of whom are girls and women. Africa is the world’s youngest continent, with an ever-growing youth demographic, and an estimated 20 million new jobs need to be created every year to meet the increasing demand. Africa is at a crossroad.
Governments, policy makers and the private sector are still grappling on what the future of work will look like, how to close the employment gap and meet demand for skilled labor. What we do know, is that we need to reskill, upskill and adapt to this fast-moving changing world, where one’s experience matters less than one’s ability to adapt and apply one’s knowledge.