- IBM Invests $70m, Targets 25million Jobs in Nigeria, Others
IBM is investing $70 million in building much-needed digital, cloud, and cognitive Information and Technology (IT) skills to help support a 21st century workforce in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and other parts of Africa.
The initiative, “IBM Digital – Nation Africa”, provides a cloud-based learning platform designed to provide free skills development programmes for up to 25 million African youths over five years, enabling digital competence and nurturing innovation in Africa.
The Digital – Nation Africa is designed to boost overall digital literacy, increase the number of skilled developers able to tap into cognitive engines, and enable entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs grow businesses around the new solutions.
The initiative will be supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which has a special focus on fostering market-driven ICT skills in Africa and the Middle East.
The plan is expected to take many African youths out of the labour market and secure them with the right information that would enable them contribute positively to economic growth.
This is part of IBM’s global push to build the next generation of skills needed for “New Collar” careers.
“New Collar” is a term used by IBM to describe new kinds of careers that do not always require a four-year college degree but rather sought-after skills in cybersecurity, data science, artificial intelligence, cloud, and much more.
For African youths to be able to benefit from a cognitive future, IBM said there needs to be a much higher level of digital literacy. At the top of the skills pyramid are developers, who need to know how to create solutions that can leverage the power of cognitive, and entrepreneurs who are aware of the potential.
Africa has approximately 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. By 2040, the continent is expected to be home to the world’s largest labour force, with an estimated working age population of one billion (State of Education in Africa Report 2015). Yet many African companies cite local skills gap as one of the major bottlenecks to growth.
Through a free, cloud-based online learning environment delivered on IBM Bluemix, the premier cloud platform for business, the initiative will provide a range of programmes from basic IT literacy to highly sought-after advanced skills including social engagement, digital privacy, and cyber protection.
Advanced users will be able to explore career-oriented IT topics including programming, cybersecurity, data science and agile methodologies, as well as important business skills like critical thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
The initiative aims to empower African citizens, entrepreneurs, and communities with the knowledge and tools to design, develop, and launch their own digital solutions.
Based on Watson, the cognitive online system will adapt and learn. It will review the multiple interactions the education initiative will have with students, to help direct them to the right courses and help IBM refine the courses to better adapt the material for the needs of the users.
Watson will also create a depth of knowledge using anonymous information gathered from interactions with the students. This will help entrepreneurs and developers understand which current Bluemix solutions best meet their needs and refine their idea to help them design a solution that has greatest market potential.
The programme will be launched from IBM’s regional offices in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, and Egypt, to spread the initiative across the continent.
Country General Manager, IBM South Africa, Hamilton Ratshefola, said IBM sees effective, high quality IT education as a key driver of economic vitality in Afric, adding that through access to open standards, best practices, IBM tools, and course materials, the broad scope of this initiative will enable vital skills development.
“In order to find solutions to Africa’s challenges, industries across the spectrum need to enable the existing and future workforce to perform at the forefront of technologies such as cognitive and cloud computing. This will be the key to spurring economic growth,” he stated.
IBM will collaborate with UNDP on opportunities for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills delivery, certification, and accreditation.
UNDP will work with their network of existing government partnerships to extend the programme throughout Africa.
UNDP’s 2015 Human Development Report highlighted that technology is affecting the nature of work by introducing new ways of communicating, new products and new demands for skills. New technologies are also reinforcing and deepening previous trends in economic globalisation, bringing workers and businesses into a global network through outsourcing and global value chains.
“These processes are reshaping work and testing national and international policies. In an attempt to address this global challenge here in South Africa, as well as in other priority countries in Africa.
UNDP is pleased to leverage its global presence, development knowledge, and long standing partnerships to provide context, traction and scale to this collaboration with IBM,” said UNDP Country Director in South Africa, Walid Badawi.
Verdant Capital Advises WIOCC on USD80 Million Equity Capital Raise
Verdant Capital has advised WIOCC Holding Company Limited (or “WIOCC”) on an USD 80 million equity capital raise. USD 75 million of equity was invested by CAPE IV, a fund managed by leading African private equity fund manager African Capital Alliance. The balance was invested by management and an existing shareholder.
The equity raised has been supplemented by a debt capital raise. The total capital raise of USD 200 million will be used to expand its connectivity within Africa and internationally, and through Open Access Data Centres (or “OADC”) – a newly created WIOCC Group company – to launch a network of pan-African data centres optimised to serve the needs of the cloud provider and wholesale community.
As well as introducing a strong new investor into the company, the capital will be used to support WIOCC’s expansion strategy across Africa and accelerate its investment in enhancing the continent’s digital infrastructure. Strategic investments in the new Equiano and 2Africa international subsea systems will augment and complement WIOCC’s existing core network infrastructure, cost-effectively adding multi-Terabits (Tbps) of capacity and significantly increasing its options for delivering the high-availability solutions demanded in markets across Africa. WIOCC’s terrestrial strategy, which includes deployment of metro and national networks in key locations, will be extended to include new countries and metropolitan areas, increasing its portfolio of end-to-end solutions for clients across Africa.
Part of the capital raise will be used in funding OADC, which is creating a transformational interconnected pan-African network of open-access, carrier-neutral data centres. First-phase locations will house key submarine cable landings in Lagos, Durban and Mogadishu, supporting the drive to land international submarine capacity directly into carrier-neutral data centres. Each will provide clients with bespoke colocation facilities and ultra-reliable, seamless connectivity directly into new international subsea systems, eliminating the costs and risks traditionally associated with terrestrial backhauling. Construction and fit-out is underway in Lagos and Durban, with both to be launched early in 2022, whilst the Mogadishu data centre will be ready before the end of 2022. Further phases of deployment will deliver more than 20 new data centres in strategic locations throughout the continent, focusing on major connectivity hubs in each country.
African Capital Alliance was attracted to the investment by the clear vision to develop high quality and synergistic assets and solutions to support its long-term client partnerships. The investments will further position WIOCC to take advantage of the accelerating migration of infrastructure and services into the cloud, driving demand for data transmission, storage and processing in wholesale, enterprise and consumer end-markets in Africa, and bringing forward realisation of WIOCC’s vision to make an enduring contribution to Africa’s communications.
The successful capital raise further strengthens Verdant Capital’s track record as a leading advisor on transactions for or involving pre-eminent private equity firms in Africa.
Investment Opportunities in Africa in Full Display at IATF’s Investor Forum
The Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) 2021, which is currently taking place at the Durban International Conference Centre, will be hosting tomorrow, 18 November, its Investment Day. Organised under the theme “Unlocking Investment and Accelerating Deal Flow in Africa”, the Investor Forum is a full day dedicated to showcasing Africa’s investment potential and showcasing investment-ready projects. The Investment Forum will also feature sector specific parallel sessions on: Agriculture, Logistics, Technology and Tourism.
IATF is Africa’s biggest in-person B2B and B2G event of the year and seven Heads of Government attended the opening ceremony. The message was loud and clear that there is the political will and engagement to make the African Continental Free Trade Agreement a success and that at the heart of this is developing intra-African trade and investment.
IATF has featured three days of debates and discussions to help overcome the obstacles holding back trade such as the cost of moving goods and cross-border payments. Afreximbank has developed some specific products to help deal with these structural issues: the Afreximbank African Collaborative Transit Guarantee Scheme (AACTGS) and the Pan-African Payments and Settlements System (PAPSS). A full day of deliberations focusing specifically on the Automotive Sector and the Pharmaceuticals Industry to help grow domestic manufacturing is also taking place.
The Investor Day will focus on investment opportunities on the continent and unlocking cross-border investment by African national champions, focusing on some key sectors and learning from investors and companies who are committed and invested in the African continent.
Confirmed speakers include: Hon. Ms. Bogolo Joy Kenewendo, Global Economist, Kenewendo Advisory and Former Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Botswana; Mr. Amr Kamel, Executive Vice President, Business Development & Corporate Banking, Afreximbank; Dr. Acha Leke, Senior Partner and Chairman, McKinsey & Company, Africa; Mr. Akol Ayii, Founder and Chairman, Trinity Energy; Mr. Paulo Gomes, Chairman, Orango Investment Corporation; Ms. Ndiarka Mbodji, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Kowry Energy; Mr. Abdou Souleye Diop, Managing Partner, Mazars.
“I have always been a believer in the development of national champions and for these national champions to be the locomotive of private sector investment across the continent. We’re seeing it but the examples are still too seldom. The pandemic has highlighted the necessity to become self-reliant and this will require cross-border collaboration,” said Omar Ben Yedder, Project Lead on the Investment Forum and Publisher of African Business magazine. “This Investment Forum is built on this same spirit of cooperation, bringing together projects from across the continent to present the investment potential in Africa,” he added.
To coincide with the dates of the event, the IATF 2021 Investment Forum team, in coordination with African Investment Promotion Agencies, is making available an IATF 2021 Project Book, a compilation of investment ready projects across multiple sectors. The IATF 2021 Project Book can be downloaded here.
Investors, Prepare Now for Trek Towards Normalised Interest Rates
As the Bank of England signals it will soon implement tighter monetary policy, investors should review their portfolios to ensure they successfully navigate increasing complexities, affirms the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory, asset management and fintech organisations.
The comments from deVere Group’s Nigel Green come as the UK’s central bank kept interest rates on hold on Thursday, defying market expectations that it would be the first of the world’s major central banks to hike rates following the pandemic.
The Bank of England decided to keep interest rates at an all-time low of 0.1%, rather than raise them to 0.25%, in a 7-to-2 vote.
Mr Green says: “After putting out hawkish signals recently, the Bank ultimately opted not to go for the interest rate hike that the markets had fully priced in, sending sterling falling to a one-month low.
“However, crucially, the BoE did leave the door open to the likelihood of raising rates ‘over coming months.’
“We believe this is the central bank’s way of prepping investors and households that inflation has become a concern and that growth has become slower due to supply side bottlenecks – and, therefore, to expect an interest rate hike as early as December.”
He continues: “Should this happen, stock and bond markets could correct sharply. Investors would be well-advised to stay in the market, but they should review their portfolios to ensure that they are properly diversified across asset class, sectors, regions and currencies.
“This will ensure they are best positioned to mitigate the downsides and seize opportunities arising from the likely volatility.
“The current scenario might normally drive investors to increase their exposure to fixed-income, but it’s almost universally agreed that stocks will continue to outperform bonds. There’s no real alternative at the moment.
“Plus, the growing inflation issue means cash will be eroded in a bank.”
The Bank of England has lifted its inflation forecast, and now sees consumer price inflation peaking around 5% next April, before dropping again. This is more than double its 2% target and an increase from the 3.1% in September.
The deVere CEO concludes: “This is the hardest time to be an investor and worst time not to be.
“There are real opportunities to be had, but navigating the territory is set to become more complex in coming months as we move towards a new era of interest rate normality driven partly by inflation fears.”
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