PROMOTING SELF-RELIANCE THROUGH DIGITAL SKILLS

In 2015, 195 nations under the United Nations including Malawi agreed that they can change the world for the better.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) number 1 agrees on poverty eradication but Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world despite making significant economic and structural reforms to sustain economic growth.

The countries noted that by bringing together businesses, institutions of higher education and local non-governmental organizations, they can improve the lives of people in their respective countries by 2030.

Malawi is still lagging behind in many development indicators. One of the indicators is youth unemployment, which according to International Labor Organization report, stands at 21 percent.

Young people like these need all the necessary digital skills set

As of 2018, 70 percent of the country’s population were youths, yet they are engulfed in a spate of socioeconomic challenges that are also said to be derailing their contribution towards the national development.

Realizing the gap, Malawi government through a grant from the World Bank introduced digital skills training to equip youths with modern technology skills under the Public Private Partnership Commission as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is now globally recognized as an essential tool for promoting competitiveness, job creation, sustainable development and overall; job creation.

One of the training computer labs at Mzuzu E Hub

Mzuzu Entrepreneur Hub could not be left behind and chose also to be part of this noble cause. And in March 2021, under its Media Information Literacy Education (MILE) Programme, over 50 trainees enrolled to undergo digital skills training.

The trainees, aged between 23 and 35 underwent digital marketing, videography and photography, data management, website designing, computer programming and end user computing trainings for six weeks.

Temweka Msiska (L, standing) during a graphic design class

One of the trainees Temweka Msiska, who was equipped with skills in website designing, digital marketing and graphic designing, says this arrangement will forever be beneficial to him.

“My goal is to establish my own organization in the coming years and with the skills gained, it means I will be able to create a website for the organization on my own. When I heard about this opportunity, I knew that this will change my life for the better,” he says.

One of the trainees during a computer coding class

Another trainee Nomsa Ndhlozi says she can now create a computer programme that can solve various problems in the society.

“I have been trained in computer programming. As such I am able to create programmes that provide solutions. It has been an exciting and profitable experience,” she narrated.

Digital Skills Trainer Joseph Kumwenda during an orientation session for the trainees

Joseph Kumwenda is Mzuzu E-Hub’s Digital Skills Manager. He describes the first cohort of digital skills training as a success and a huge step towards uplifting the lives of young people in Northern Malawi.

“I expect trainees to apply the skills they have gained from these trainings for businesses and employment. Trainees will also expand the knowledge in their respective communities by sharing the skills with their colleagues, who [for some reasons] were unable to be part of the trainings,” Kumwenda explains.

A photography and videography mentorship session

With the world fast changing, it is not a hidden fact that technological advancements are bringing the world together and developing economies.

Others argue that this is perhaps one of the worst of times to be a young person in Malawi due to high unemployment rate, but digital skills offer another opportunity for youths to be self-employed and reliant.

Vincent Chikwembeya who is an ICT support Officer at Mzuzu E-Hub states that to drive growth and remain relevant in the 21st century, Malawi needs to advance technology knowledge.

For this to materialise, he says, there is a need to create a generation that is able to use digital tools efficiently and creatively.

He thinks this is because the demand for ICT specialists such as data scientists and web developers is growing for organizations, both within and outside the technology sector.

“Providing employment alone is not enough. Youths need a path to develop themselves as a means to build skills and capabilities in the long run. Investment in human potential has a transformative effect not only for the youths but also for their families and communities,” he says.

Trainees during the digital rights workshop at Mzuzu E-Hub’s offices

The Digital Skills Training is supporting Malawi’s Development Growth Strategy III which included creating jobs for youths by becoming self-reliant and be able to contribute towards the country’s developmental agenda.

The Digital Skills for All project is fully sponsored by the World Bank through the Malawi Government under Public Private Partnership Commission’s Digital Malawi Project. Mzuzu E Hub is providing these trainings in Mzuzu City, Mzimba, Nkhatabay, Chitipa, Rumphi and Karonga with a target of 500 youth in 2021 and 2022.  

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