ICT graduate crisis hits East and Southern Africa

Posted on November 20, 2012 01:42 am

Back in the days while at the university, one of the lecturers used to tell us that ‘All that stands between the graduate and the top of the ladder is the ladder’. That ladder is competition in my own opinion. However, that is not the case in East and Southern African countries where government figures shows the number of domestic graduates completing technology related courses has fallen by 15% percent between 2008 and 2011.Computing courses in Africa need to be more proactive regarding new technologies and should be able to respond faster to the needs of the marketplaces unlike the current situation where half baked graduates are loitering around with inadequate skills that make them uncompetitive enough to compete for well paying ICT jobs.

With the exception of Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa other governments in East African Community (EAC) countries and South African Development Cooperation (SADC) have failed to address issues affecting education and training in the ICT industry as well as tackle factors impacting skills shortages and initiate plans for the future.The crisis being witnessed in most East and Southern African states could worsen because graduates are wary of limited ICT courses jobs. There is also a general feeling in the community ICT jobs are narrow in scope and are simply focusing on programming which is definitely a perception problem that governments and academicians need to address urgently. In Uganda, an ICT graduate from respected Makerere University who was sought my advise in the industry, narrated to me how there is a widely held idea in Uganda and to an extent East African countries how ICT is just something one work in instead of something of a career like medicine.

When I contacted my friend Robert Mushi, a Tanzanian ICT expat working and living in Botswana, he narrated to me how his students have had countless difficulties imagining what an ICT career is like and that has led some to exit the industry immediately after graduation and have ended up joining other fields. This is despite the fact that African countries have skilled ICT staff shortage and added that there are more skills to it than simply programming. Mr Mushi added that communication and strategic planning are critically vital skills in ICT industry and in most East and Southern African countries they are some of the best paying jobs.

A year ago while doing a study on quality of ICT graduates in East and Southern Africa, I learned that there is a big question of whether the skills taught at universities in East and Southern Africa are matched with the requirements of the marketplaces like in telecoms, banks and security.My advise to graduates in East and Southern Africa is to prepare adequately in advance for plenty of opportunities available in apps development, big data and various roles in consulting mid-sized and corporate businesses which are going to be the most lucrative over the next decade. The sad situation is that there are very few institutions offering quality courses in those areas and foremost important step would be to choose the right university or college.

Contador Harrison