And when it comes to closing the skills gap, experts believe we should stop viewing this as a problem and embrace it as an incredible opportunity, where there is no shortage of potential.

We have young, curious people and plenty of jobs to fill. We need only to enable a match.

That was the key message from the latest Business Day Dialogues in partnership with Accenture, where the CEO of Accenture in Africa, Vukani Mngxati, Wazo Investments chairman Mteto Nyati and Clickatell CEO Pieter de Villiers shared some thoughts.

Noted Mngxati: ‘What has dawned on us is that digital skills are an industry. To build a real industry, we must come together and create a world-class capability out of our young talent. We have the main ingredient, which is young people. Now it is up to us how we methodically create the industry.’

When it comes to unlocking potential, De Villiers shared a strong view: ‘I firmly believe digital skills is a larger opportunity for SA than mining and agriculture ever was. We have incredible talent and potential. We have a youthful population that’s eager, energetic and digitally enabled. We need to believe in our youth and invest in their potential.’

Nyati believed that tapping this potential comes with a shift in mindset. ‘It starts by having a clear view that you can create the future that you want,’ he explained. ‘We would like to create a different future where our young people are engaged, productive and able to start up their own business off the back of the technologies that are out there. It starts with being intentional and pulling together the resources we have.’

So, when faced with such a large task, where does one begin?

De Villiers said: ‘The reality is that it’s going to take a collective effort. We have all the tools to design a digital skills supply chain for the country and put SA on the map… but we must come together, both in the public and private sectors, and support one large initiative across the country.’

Setting a positive intention is one thing, but it’s becoming more and more vital for us to act now and implement our plans. Our experts took a straightforward approach. ‘We have no option as a country,’ said Nyati. ‘If we want to grow as a country, we must go in this direction. Our survival as an economy depends on us taking this important step.’

Mngxati said: ‘The future is digital — period. What is important is for us to start. The time to talk has come to an end. Yes, we need policy — but let’s improve it as we go along. Let us get to the point where we can begin a journey.’

Click here to watch the Business Day Dialogue in partnership with Accenture

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