After graduating from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria with a degree in Communication and Language Arts in 2016, Olashile Odetola could not find a job.
But an online learning program piloted by the African Development Bank has given her two ‘gifts”: digital skills and a sense of confidence.
Odetola, 31, was one of two thousand students who took part in the ‘Coding for Employment’ digital training program launched by the African Development Bank in partnership with technology firm Microsoft in April 2019 after successful pilots in Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire. 46% of the students have been women.
Odetola said the skills she acquired from the coding program have made her more competitive in the job market. She was permitted to attend the training class with kids in tow – and was even nursing her last child.
‘Never in my life would I have thought that I will have this opportunity. For the first time in my life, I feel confident in myself. I am now working from the comfort of my home in the digital field,”she told a packed auditorium at this year’s African Economic Conference (AEC), held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
After completing the five-week programme, Odetola now works providing annotation and labelling for an online company. ‘It’s helped me to support the family,” she said.
‘When I saw this opportunity from the Bank, I jumped at it,” she said.
Her testimony drew cheers from scores of hopeful young people who had been invited to attend the conference. Her testimony was an illustration of the Bank’s ‘Jobs for Youth in Africa’ strategy, which aims to create 25 million jobs by 2025 and to equip 50 million African youth with competitive skills.
‘Jobs for Youth is operational and we seek to create impact. Not just any impact but impact that can be scaled. African youth deserve value — that is what the African Development Bank and her partners sought to create,” Uyoyo Edosio, program task manager at the African Development Bank, told the conference.
‘We placed all our bets on the youth and for the first time, the private sector, non-governmental bodies and development institutions like the Bank were not speaking profit margin, we were speaking development,” Edosio said.
Overall, the goal is to expand the program to 130 centres of excellence across Africa over a 10-year period. The aim is to create nine million jobs and to empower young people to become innovative players in the digital economy.
‘This is just one step on that journey to empower our youth in Africa to get the greatest jobs in computer science,” Rich Reynolds, General Manager at Microsoft Philanthropies Strategy, said of the Coding for Employment program.
Government ministers from Nigeria, Liberia, South Sudan and Eswatini attending the conference, commended the initiative as a pacesetter in tackling the enormous youth unemployment challenge the continent is grappling with. They outlined policies being pursued in their respective countries to address youth employment.
The AEC is hosted by the African Development Bank, in partnership with the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. This year’s theme was: Jobs, Entrepreneurship, and Capacity Development for African Youth”