African firms must train or lose their competitiveness in the global market

In September, the world’s leading experts on online learning will be in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, for eLearning Africa- the continent’s largest conference on technology-assisted learning and training. Some of them are warning that a lack of focus on workplace learning and a failure to harness new technology to equip workers with vital new skills could undermine the benefits of steady economic growth in much of Africa over the last decade.

Ms. Rebecca Stromeyer, the organiser of eLearning Africa, said: “This view has been repeatedly expressed to me by experts in our network. They say that although technology has helped many African countries to make really impressive progress in recent years, this achievement could soon be undermined if governments and employers don’t make tangible efforts to equip students and workers with the skills they need for tomorrow’s markets and workplaces in the era of a fourth industrial revolution.

“Things are already starting to move very fast. Workers need to be flexible. They need to understand how to acquire new skills quickly; and they need to be comfortable working in an environment of constantly accelerating technological change. They can be trained and be prepared for this.

“African countries have a real advantage in being largely unburdened by old-fashioned, hidebound systems which tie other countries to the past. African businesses can leapfrog their competitors – but they have to understand that this means investing in the knowledge economy, in technology and in training their workers. A technically-skilled workforce that is also flexible enough to adapt quickly to change will be a prized asset in the economy of the future.

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“Unfortunately, unlike their European, American and even Chinese competitors, many African companies do not even have HROs (Human Resources Officers), let alone a dedicated executive responsible for workplace learning (ongoing training) and capacity development of existing and new workers.  Companies and governments need to understand that as the pace of change quickens, this will soon become an existential issue.”

This year’s eLearning Africa will have a strong focus on workplace learning and on the ‘knowledge economy’ – the theme of the annual Ministerial Round Table that will be held on the opening day of the conference and attended by ministers of education and ICT from all over Africa.

The main conference will also feature keynote presentations from some of the renowned personalities in the global ‘edTech’ industry. Among them will be Elliott Masie, the internationally-renowned educational technology expert credited with coining the term ‘eLearning.’ Mr. Masie is well known for his unsentimental views on the changing world of learning and workforce performance.

He continuously states that his “professional focus has been in the fields of corporate learning, organisational performance and emerging technology”. During his career, he has developed models for “accelerating the spread of learning, knowledge and collaboration throughout organisations”. He has been a powerful advocate for the “sane deployment” of learning and collaborative technology as a means of supporting the effectiveness and profitability of enterprises. At eLearning Africa, he will be taking a long, hard look at the prospects for African companies and economies. And he will throw some light on how African political leaders and CEOs can use learning and training as the engine of sustainable prosperity.

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“Elliott Masie is a really big name in the business,” says Ms. Stromeyer. “He understands the huge potential of Africa. He can see the immense opportunities for enterprises in Africa. But he also knows that unless African leaders really start to engage with the issue of workplace learning and training, what has been achieved so far could very soon be lost. What he has to say about what needs to be done now is vitally important for African businesses.”

eLearning Africa, which visits a different African capital every year, is attended by over 1,500 participants from all over the world. They include professional educators, political leaders, entrepreneurs and investors. The conference is also accompanied by a major exhibition at which companies, organisations and institutions showcase their latest products, services, courses and solutions.

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