Technology is the solution to the challenges faced by Africa’s youth, and could also provide an answer to the continent’s health and finance problems, according to Tendai Mashingaidze, manager of Zimbabwe’s Muzinda hub.
Pointing to the high numbers of youth in Africa who do not attend school, combined with the high unemployment rates, Mashingaidze says it has never been more vital to equip young people with technical skills to enable them to secure work.
“Technology remains the key to bridge some of the gaps faced by our youth. Only 12 out of every 100 youths have a tertiary education, with a brutally competitive labour market and limited job opportunities, the need to up-skill our youth with relevant skills such as coding has never been more eminent,” Mashingaidze said.
Furthermore, Mashingaidze believes technology can not only help youth find employment, but can answer the fundamental problem of lack of access to tertiary education faced by Africa’s rural population in particular.
“Online learning remains a solution to rising costs of education and solving for unbelievable distances children walk to school – a third of the world’s children of school-going age who are not in school are in Africa,” he said.
While technical skills and education are key focal points for the Muzinda hub – whose incubator programme focuses on training members in coding and business skills -, Mashingaidze is also convinced technology can have a transformative impact on Africa’s healthcare sector.
“On average we have two doctors for every 1000 patients, the Ebola outbreak gave us a rude awakening to this phenomenon – could an app have helped bring about a diagnosis without the need to see a doctor and could geo-tagging have alerted health workers to the location of infected people?”
The role of technology is not only limited to public services, Mashingaidze says, but tech solutions could also be used to encourage entrepreneurship and support Africa’s vibrant small businesses, currently hampered by lack of access to finance.
“A whopping 95 per cent of micro enterprises have no access to loans, due to lack of credit bureau coverage. Surely technology should help us come up with an alternative way to assess risk?”
However, the critical question, he says, is who should be responsible for developing these tech-based solutions for Africa; with Mashingaidze suggesting international collaboration could contribute to creating viable tech innovations key to solving the continent’s challenges.