Digital Skills for Businesses in East Africa
Title: Centre of Excellence for Information and Communication Technology in East Africa (CENIT@EA)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda
Partner: Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA), German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST)
Lead executing agency: East African Community (EAC) Secretariat
Overall term: 2017 to 2021
For the countries of the East African Community (EAC), the digital transformation presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The current development strategies of EAC countries demonstrate the importance of expanding information and communication technologies (ICT) in driving socio-economic development. A developed ICT infrastructure and qualified experts are key prerequisites for the digital transformation in East Africa. University education plays a particular role in qualifying these experts because qualification requirements are becoming more stringent in all branches of industry as digitalisation progresses. In addition, in the context of lifelong learning, technical training courses for employees in the private sector are necessary to prepare them for the new requirements. Although several universities are already responding to the requirements of digitalisation, the courses offered have not yet been sufficiently tailored to the needs of industry and the public sector. Effective cooperation between the private sector and universities has been lacking.
Offers by East African universities meet the needs of the private sector, public sector and civil society stakeholders in the region’s digital transformation.
The regional Centre of Excellence for Information and Communication Technology in East Africa (CENIT@EA) acts as an innovation hub, providing a platform for measures to strengthen industry in East Africa with regard to the digital transformation. The implementing partners are the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA). Further partners are the East African Business Council (EABC) and an academic consortium consisting of seven German and East African institutions.
One key measure entails training ICT experts by means of the practical Masters’ programme Embedded and Mobile Systems (EMoS) held by CENIT@EA at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST). In cooperation with the private sector, the Centre has set up a laboratory and developed a curriculum tailored to the needs of companies. Students gain initial experience by doing internships and conduct research on digital solutions for companies as part of their Master’s dissertations. In addition, courses on the fundamentals of good corporate governance enable students to become entrepreneurs themselves.
CENIT@EA also offers training courses for experts in companies and unemployed graduates. By providing courses for lecturers at universities in East Africa, CENIT@EA also strengthens training in digital technologies outside of the courses it offers itself.
Finally, CENIT@EA promotes regional cooperation between universities and companies in teaching digital skills. For this purpose, cooperation arrangements are being established with partners from the private sector (including a Memorandum of Understanding with IBM) and public institutions (such as the EAC Secretariat, ministries and regulators). The ICT4Business series of events brings together businesses and CENIT@EA to discuss specific challenges facing companies and derive appropriate measures.
The EMoS programme in Tanzania has been certified and approved by the government. In the first round of applications, 619 students from six countries applied. Scholarships were awarded to 25 students from five countries, 24 per cent of whom were women. Two students financed the course themselves. A second group will be beginning in January 2020.
The students have already established initial contacts with the private sector and will be starting internships in September 2020, after which they will be drawing up their dissertations in cooperation with the companies.
To begin with, the companies have received training in the development of Android mobile apps.