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China tech sector helps Africa youth build ICT skills

By Herbert Mushangwe | China Daily Africa | Updated: 2018-11-25 11:16
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Francis Aduol (left), the vicechancellor of the Technical University of Kenya, and Liu Jun (right), the executive vicepresident of AVIC International Holding Corporation, sign a manufacturing contract during the ATC Season Four Award Ceremony on March 27.

Huawei and AVIC take lead in establishing programs that expose students to global business practices

Over the past decade, Chinese enterprises operating in Africa have launched various programs aimed at empowering the continent's young people by equipping them with practical skills to help the development of their countries' economies.

Huawei's Seeds for the Future program and AVIC International's Africa Tech Challenge are among programs that have left a lasting mark on many young Africans.

Initiated in 2008, the Seeds for the Future program seeks to develop local information and communications technology talent, enhance knowledge transfer, promote a greater understanding of and interest in the telecommunications sector, and improve and encourage regional building of and participation in the digital community.

Francis Aduol (left), the vice-chancellor of the Technical University of Kenya, and Liu Jun (right), the executive vice-president of AVIC International Holding Corporation, sign a manufacturing contract during the ATC Season Four Award Ceremony on March 27. Liu Hongjie / China Daily

According to Adam Lane, the senior director for public affairs at Huawei Southern Africa, the Seeds for the Future program is Huawei's largest global corporate social responsibility program and has so far been launched in 108 countries, including 22 in Africa.

"We seek to provide youth across the world with leading ICT skills. In cooperation with governments, higher-education institutes and other organizations, Huawei selects top students and gives them the opportunity to study and gain work experience at Huawei's headquarters in China," he says.

Lane says Huawei enables the students to gain exposure to its global business operations in a cross-cultural environment. They also get an opportunity to learn industry-leading technologies.

Last year, Huawei, in partnership with Kenya's Information and Communication Technology Authority and eMentoring Africa, launched the Digital Skills for Life program, which has benefited 30 disadvantaged youths.

The Digital Skills for Life program is designed to equip underprivileged youth with various skills that will be relevant in the Kenyan ICT sector, seen as the emerging engine of growth for the country's economy.

Sharon Wanjiku, one of the beneficiaries of the program, was raised by a single mother and couldn't afford to continue her education after secondary school. She is grateful to Huawei for giving her an opportunity to acquire skills.

"Through the program, I got to learn advanced computer skills, good communication skills, entrepreneurship skills and life skills. Now I can work in any organization comfortably. I'm grateful to sponsors for giving me an opportunity to better my life," she says.

According to the Kenyan Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, 90 percent of the country's unemployed young people lack vocational training. Private-public partnerships have therefore emerged as models for collaboratively raising skill levels.

The Africa Tech Challenge was established in 2014 through a partnership between AVIC International and the Kenyan Ministry of Education. The initiative was designed to address the skills gap in most African countries and aims to enhance the role of young people, in order to drive the industrial revolution on the continent.

The program also provides technical and vocational education and training support to Kenya's Ministry of Education.

The challenge has had five successful seasons and seeks to equip young people with technical skills. It involves a training program and a competition. Participants receive certificates, and the training gives them access to internships and job opportunities.

The most outstanding participants receive fully sponsored master's degree scholarships to universities in China. Cash prizes are also given to the winners. In season five, the top two teams, Technical University of Kenya and the Rift Valley Technical Training Institute, secured a manufacturing contract to supply spare parts to China worth $100,000 (88,000 euros; £78,000).

Season five brought together teams from Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Gabon and Cote d'Ivoire. The initiative has so far trained 33 teams, with 150 young Africans gaining specialized skills.

China Road and Bridge Corp has also helped young Kenyans to acquire railway skills. The company has offered scholarships to 60 Kenyan students so far to pursue various railway and train-related engineering studies at Chinese universities.

Last year, CRBC granted 1 billion Kenyan shillings ($9.8 million) to Kenya for development of an engineering institute at the Railway Training Institute in Nairobi. CRBC has also provided support to students from the Republic of Congo, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Togo to study in China.



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