National Digital Policy Plans in Africa for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4-IR) Labour Market
Fourth-Industrial-Revolution (4IR) technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa may have a double-edged impact. There is potential for “substantial economic growth and welfare benefits” as well as social and economic disruption that leads to the “widening of inequality.”1This develops a need for “countervailing policy” that aims to strike a balance between the creation of new formal employment using 4IR technologies and the skilling, reskilling, or upskilling of the current and future labour force to possess basic skills to operate and interact within this era.2 Considering the projected outcome of the creation of 133 million jobs by the end of 2022 and the possibility of displacement of 75 million jobs, policy should aim to mitigate the current loss and advance possibilities within the use of 4IR technologies.3 The positive or negative impact of 4IR technologies is dependent on initial “national conditions and policy choices”.4
The Development of National Strategies
National strategies are held to be vital for industry 4.0 , as they assist with streamlining policy in a manner that assists with advancing the development and deployment of industry 4.0 technologies.5 The strategies should be formulated with the underlying objective of a transition period that accommodates to different factors that emerge when deploying the technologies.6 In addition, the strategies need to adopt a contextual approach that takes into account realistic objectives, which in turn assists with creating a conducive environment for the objectives to be actualised. The rationale behind this, is the strategies should be reflective of a country’s “economic, industrial and innovation structures, the penetration of digital infrastructure and national priorities as well as the country’s capacity to mobilise public partnerships.”7 Therefore, with realistic objectives in play, it would assist with the translation of national
strategy into specific reforms that are implementable and actionable.8 When formulating national strategies there is a need to factor investment in physical infrastructure and human capacity that entails the process of training the populace on the necessary prerequisite digital skills.
Appreciating this, the following blog series will assess how States in various African regions
are formulating their national strategies of 4IR with the particular focus on the upskilling , reskilling and skilling of their labour force. The first part of the series looks towards the North African region with a particular focus on Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.
National Strategies :
Egypt ICT Strategy 2030
The strategy is focused on embracing ICT within the functioning of the state. The strategy aims to undertake a number of investments, capacity building and training programmes that are centred around enhancing digital inclusion and capabilities of youth with the aim of assisting the digital growth of the state. 9 This falls in line with the state’s objective to curate a digital society that stems from science and knowledge through the presence of a capable digital economy , that would be based on equity. The ICT 2030 strategy is further achieved through the implementation of Digital Egypt.10
Egypt has a contextual based strategy known as Digital Egypt.11 The strategic plan lays out the foundations for the formulation of a digital society. The plan encompasses of three distinctive tiers: digital transformation, digital skills and digital innovation.12 The digital skills tier was formulated with the main aim of re-skilling the populace to adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 13 There is a strong commitment to this tier; the Egyptian government has allocated a budget of EGP 1.1 billion to the upskilling project in the financial year of 2021-2022.14 Within this tier, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), has introduced various initiatives to increase the availability and the financing for basic digital skills training among school and university students, graduates, professionals , women and individuals with disabilities.15 There is an integrated approach that is implemented to create “a societal base of digital competencies.”16 The strategy looks towards fostering digital skills in all fields and various levels “to integrate traditional and remote digital learning models”.17 The strategy also adopts a ranked approach that starts with digital literacy then transitions to intermediate technology training programs and lastly advanced technical training programs.18
Practical ways in which this has been implemented is with the launch of Digital Egypt Builders Initiative (DEBI).19 The initiative is a free scholarship that has the objective of building human capital in advanced technical areas as well as harnessing the youth’s innovative capacities.20 The target group is university students who major in engineering and computer science. The training rages from artificial intelligence , cybersecurity, robotics , automation and digital arts.21 The initiative is one that adopts a collaborative approach with various international universities that specialise in modern technologies as well as multinationals that specialise in ICT and skills development.22 Specific examples of this initiative include ; Artificial Intelligence (AI) Initiative for Higher Education Students , where the training is centred around basic information and knowledge of AI.23
There is the Future work platform, a digital upskilling scholarship in relevant technical skills such as data, digital marketing and cloud. 24 The main aim is to increase employability within the industry 4.0 era.25 In addition to scholarships , eLearning is available through initiatives such as Mahara- Tech that offers courses formulated by the Information Technology Institute (ITI). 26 The main objective is centred around updating knowledge of new technologies and enriching Arabic content.27 They are various programs that are launched both by MCIT and the private sector that have a special focus on women. The programs aim to empower Egyptian women using various tools of ICT to close the gap between the workforce and the required skills in the labour market. These programs are centred around providing relevant training to produce skills that would assist with utilising industry 4.0 technologies. They include; Qodwa-Tech initiative, an initiative that has a central focus on representing women of the informal economy sector and the agricultural industries sector by motivating them to become entrepreneurs and cultivating their abilities in ICT and fintech.28 The Maharat training program, that is developed by Google to manage the growing gap between the workforce and the relevant skills required in the market 29plus the Hack4Girls program, a collaborative initiative by MCIT and Vodafone to award young girls in the field of programming, databases and information technology.30
Note d’Orientations Générales pour le Développement du Digital au Maroc a l’horizon 2025 (Horizon 2025)
The strategic policy framework is grounded on four key axes, they include ; (i) digital transformation of the Moroccan public sector; (ii) developing the digital economy; (iii) social inclusion and human capital development and (iv) fostering the enabling environment to achieve digital transformation. There is an active role by Agence de Dèveloppement du Digital (ADD) to actualise the human capital development axis. The agency aims to adopt a collaborative approach with various stakeholders.31 Key examples of this include ; Orange Digital Center, that is dedicated towards the development of digital skills and innovation.32 The Center looks at implementing four strategic programs ( coding school- applicable program here).33 The programs are free of charge and open to all.34 In addition there is an open data initiative , known as the Digital Knowledge City that looks towards making certified training content accessible for all.35 There is the A1 Akhawarizmi program that supports training and research in artificial intelligence plus the creation of a digital interactive institute in Benguerir with the ministries of industry and education, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, USAID and EON Reality.36 There are programs such as Lego, that offer specialisations in educational robotics and teaching coding languages to school children.37
Morocco’s National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Competencies (ANAPEC) digital strategy for the promotion of youth employment
The strategy focuses on young people, by facilitating training programs that equip the youth with relevant skills that would assist them with integrating into the job market . Key examples include; the partnership with the Belgian Development Agency (Wehubit) “Fondation Marocaine de l’Éducation pour l’Emploi”, Fundación Educación para el Empleo, Accenture España, Dell Technologies Morocco and MEDZ (CDG Group).38 The projects focus on demand-driven skills training for young graduates, that are linked to employment opportunities in the booming ICT sector.39 The training here adopts a hybrid model of online digital training, in-classroom soft skills and technical training in computer programming.40
Vision of Education Reform 2015-2030
The vision has a central goal of developing a new strategic vision for the educational reform, that would assist with reformulating education and training in line with the industry 4.0.41
National Strategy for the Generalization of Information and Communication Technologies
In line with the above national strategy, the GENIE program aims to introduce digital learning technologies amongst schools in Morocco , both rural and urban locations.42 The applicable levers for the project is training, where they are various training modules that are accessible. Modules here are centred around teaching basic coding fundamentals that are line with UNESCO competency framework.43
Smart Education Program
This is a strategic partnership between Huwaei Morocco and the Ministry of National Education Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research. The goal is to equip students with relevant ICT skills to integrate into the labour market. Huwaei has signed with approximately 21 universities and higher education institutions to undertake training to improve the populace’s digital skillset.44 The training focuses on AI and Big data , with nearly 500 students having already completed the course and receiving the Huawei professional technical certifications.45
Tunisie Digitale 2020 ( Digital Tunisia 2020)
The strategic plan was one that aimed to transform the use of ICT as “an important enabler for socio-economic development.”46 This would be implemented through “ a qualitative leap “ in the utilisation of ICT to ensure job creation and added value.47 Looking towards the main strategic axes of the vision ( applicable), they ranged from ; the development of the digital culture through the utilisation of ICTs in educational curricula and the digitization of content to the reduction of unemployment and the creation of jobs in the digital and offshoring sectors.48 To actualise the following objectives , the government has looked towards a collaborative approach with various stakeholders .
The partnership is one that actively sought to advance Digital Tunisia 2020 , through the implementation of the Strategic MOU of Digital Tunisia 2020.49 Huwaei assists with digital transformation, creating employment opportunities and strengthening the education and training of the Tunisian talent pool.50 Initiatives of the partnership include a regional French speaking talent centre, an ICT academy plus the implementation of a ‘Seeds for the Future’ program that looks towards providing programs , internships and an ICT skills competition.51
Digital Transformation Center
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German Development Agency created the centre on behalf of the Special Initiative for Training and Employment “Invest for Jobs” of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.52The centre is grounded on two main pillars. These include ; the Digital4Jobs” project that looks towards the support of start-ups, Industry 4.0 and the digitization of key sectors plus the “Digital4Reforms” project, focuses on GovTech, digital infrastructure and cyber security. 53 The centre aims to “further exploit” the potential of the digital economy, as it is recognised that “Digital 2020” is expiring, thus the centre is held to be successor that will assist in the implementing of the strategic axes of Digital 2020.
Orange Digital Center
This is a collaborative initiative by GIZ and Orange, that aims to support innovative start-ups, enhance digital skills and increase the employability of young people, with the aim of reducing unemployment and boosting entrepreneurship. 54 The centre is one that combines several programmes that are offered for free and are open to all. 55 The programmes include , skills such as coding, that are offered through workshops, internships, professional retraining internships and events.56
Image is from devisionx.com
1 Brookings, Inclusion, Inequality and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in Africa  < https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2022/09/23/inclusion-inequality-and-the-fourth-industrial-revolution-4ir-in-africa/#:~:text=Adoption%20of%20Fourth%2DIndustrial%2DRevolution,discussed%20in%20our%20recent%20report.> last accessed 25th October 2022.
3 World Economic Forum, How 4IR is encouraging the development of people not just machines <https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/12/4th-industrial-revolution-people-machines/#:~:text=New%20manufacturing%20opportunities%20are%20expected,development%20at%20the%20same%20tim> last accessed 25th October 2022
4 Fox L & Signè L, From Subsistence to disruptive innovation Africa, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the future jobs  AGI Brookings, 5.
5 UNCTAD, Industry 4.0 for Inclusive Development  UNCTAD/DTL/STICT/2022/4
< https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/dtlstict2022d4_en.pdf> last accessed 26th October 2022.
6 Piccarozzi M, Aquilan B & Gatti C, Industry 4.0 in Management Studies: A Systematic Literature Review  MPDI Sustainability 10(10),19.
7 UNIDO, You say you want a revolution: Strategic Approaches to Industry 4.0 in Middle-Income Countries  Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development Working Paper Series WP19,15.
8 OECD, Development Co-operation Report 2021: Shaping a Just Digital Transformation: Stuart E, Determing national priorities in the 4th Industrial Revolution (OECD Publishing, 2021),103.
13 The National Council for Artificial Intelligence, Egypt National Artificial Intelligence Strategy
< https://mcit.gov.eg/Upcont/Documents/Publications_672021000_Egypt-National-AI-Strategy-English.pdf> last accessed 22nd October 2022.
14 Zawya, Egypt allocates funds for development of digital skills
< https://www.zawya.com/en/economy/north-africa/egypt-allocates-funds-for-development-of-digital-sk> last accessed 24th October 2022.
15 Digital Egypt (n12).
17 Telecom Review, Holding the Future in a Vision: Egypt Vision 2030 < https://www.telecomreviewafrica.com/en/articles/features/2906-holding-the-future-in-a-vision-egypt-vision-2030> last accessed 27th October 2022.
19 MCIT ; Digital Egypt Builders Initiative
< https://mcit.gov.eg/en/Human_Capacity/MCIT/Digital_Egypt_Builders_Initiative> last accessed 20th October 2022.
23MCIT; Basic Digital Skills Development Programs <https://mcit.gov.eg/en/Human_Capacity/MCIT/Basic_Digital_Skills_Development_Programs> last accessed 20th October 2022.
28MCIT ; Qodwa Tech <https://mcit.gov.eg/en/Digital_Citizenship/Digital_Transformation_for_Sustainable_Development_in_Egypt/Qodwa_Tech_Initiative> last accessed 22nd October 2022.
29 MCIT, ICT for Women , < http://www.ictforwoman.gov.eg/International_Women_Day.aspx> last accessed 22nd October 2022.
30 British Council, Women in STEM in Egypt Case Study  < https://enterprise.press/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/505570207-Women-in-STEM-in-Egypt-British-Council-Booklet-2021.pdf> last accessed 23rd October 2022.
31 A Huwaei Initiative, Digital Talent Review ; Bridging The Gap; Matching Digital Skills and the Employability Pipeline in Morocco ,8 < https://en.ichei.org/Uploads/Download/2021-06-23/60d2e8159c9c8.pdf> last accessed 22nd October 2022.
32 Orange Digital Center Morocco, < https://orange.africa-newsroom.com/press/orange-inaugurate-in-morocco-the-10th-orange-digital-center-in-africa-and-the-middle-east-to-train-young-people-in-digital-technology-support-innovative-entrepreneurship-and-enhance-their-employability?lang=en> last accessed 22nd October 2022.
35 Digital Talent Review(n31)25.
37 ibid; Lego Robotic and Coding for Kids
46 IST Africa, ICT Policies Tunisia < https://www.ist-africa.org/home/default.asp?page=doc-by-id&docid=7000> last accessed 2nd September 2022.
49 Huwaei Helps Tunisia Promote Industry’s Digitalization Development , < https://www.huawei.com/ke/news/2018/7/huawei-tunisia-digitalization-development> last accessed 5th September 2022.
52 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Digital innovations create jobs and support transparent and effective public administration
< https://www.giz.de/en/worldwide/86916.html> last accessed 1st September 2022.
54 Orange Digital Center, Training Digital Skills and Fostering Employment, < https://invest-for-jobs.com/en/projects/orange-digital-center> last accessed 3rd September 2022.