Skillup Africa – is creating a sustainable pipeline of top tech talent in Africa
Joseph and Nkem – seasoned Nigerian tech founders and ecosystem builders – are joining forces to enable Africa to emerge as a leading player in the digital economy as they take on its unemployment challenge.
Africa’s increasing unemployment rate has been a source of concern for development experts. For example, in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, which has an alarming unemployment rate of 33%, there has been an explosion of kidnappings across its Northern and Eastern regions. The rise in insecurity is partly due to insufficient jobs for its teeming youths. Thankfully, the global digital economy presents a rare opportunity to mop up this problem.
According to research conducted by US-based consulting firm, Korn Ferry, there will be a global shortage of more than 85 million tech workers by 2030. This shortage will account for a $8.5 trillion loss in annual revenue.
In Nigeria, two visionary tech entrepreneurs – Nkemdilim Uwaje Begho and Joseph Agunbiade – have set their sights on building a sustainable pipeline of local tech talent that can serve the global market, thereby closing the talent gap and reducing unemployment in Nigeria, then across the continent.
Nkemdilim Uwaje Begho, an Obama African Leader, is founder and CEO of Futuresoft, a leading provider of digital & technology solutions to scaling African enterprises. Her company has served over 170 clients across 20 industries and has trained over 1,000 CEOs and executives in Digital & Social Media Marketing.
Joseph Agunbiade, a trained Product Development Manager from General Assembly in San Francisco, is the founder of Univelcity, a tech school that trains young people in software development, data science, product design, etc, then connects them to jobs.
The tech entrepreneurs co-founded Skillup Africa, an impact investment platform which pools capital from individual and institutional investors to fund training for local tech talent through a student loan program.
During Uwaje Begho’s Obama Africa Leaders project research, the digital skills advocate discovered a dearth of qualified tech talent and unaffordable cost of training were two leading hindrances to digital economy preparedness across the continent. Coincidentally, Joseph had lamented about the inability of Univelcity applicants to afford training fees in a conversation with Nkem about possible solutions to the widening talent gap. It became imperative to create a solution with funding in the product-mix for learners.
The Skillup Africa Talent Fund currently sources from institutional investors, businesses, through CSR initiatives, and NGOs through grants. The fund disburses student loans to successful applicants and offers a moratorium that covers the duration of the training, in addition to 3 months post-training, for the kickstart of the loan repayment. This allows the beneficiaries adequate time to secure a job. The screening process for applicants which apart from aptitude test and in-person interview, includes background checks, creditworthiness and completion of loan documentation, to ensure loan repayment. The loans are provided at an interest rate of 10% per annum, which students pay in advance as a commitment fee.
The loans disbursed cover technical, career and soft skill training, provision of laptops, access to Skillup Africa’s alumni and mentor network, and supporting applicants on their quest to securing paid internships and jobs.
So far, the platform has been self-funded by the co-founders and raised an angel investment of $40,000. They have already run a pilot cohort with 9 beneficiaries and are currently in the repayment cycle.
In November 2020, the company was one of the recipients of the ₦5 million ($13,100) LASRIC (Lagos State Research & Innovation Council) Innovation Grant. This grant will be partly used to fund the student loans of the first cohort which kicks off in April 2021. Interested persons can apply here.
In 2021, Skillup Africa is looking to give up to 100 student loans, 40% to 50% of these will be specifically for women looking to begin their careers in tech. This is to address the gender diversity gap in the global tech talent pool – women currently hold 19% of tech-related jobs at the top 10 global tech companies.
The company also intends to open its fund to philanthropic individuals and impact investors who align with Skillup Africa’s mission to create a sustainable pipeline of top tech talent ready for the digital economy.
In line with its goal of nation-building and unemployment reduction, Skillup Africa is also open to exploring partnerships with governments with regards to funding and also hiring trained tech talent to aid the government’s digital transformation plans on both the state and federal levels.
Africa has the largest concentration of young people in the world according to the UN. The share of Africa’s youth in the world is expected to get to 42% by 2030 and more than double from current levels by 2055.
The continent’s growing youth population can be trained to take part in the global digital economy. This, in turn, will strengthen economic growth across Africa.