How can creativity and industry-relevant skills in education help transform developing regions such as Africa? This was a question that was posed to me recently and as an advertising professional, this is what I had to say.
Kicking off transformation
The world is just getting over being gripped by a huge dose of football fever that was the the world cup. A sport where some of its greatest players have come from third world countries. Amidst the marketing run up to the games and the many stories that revolved around the players and the host country, there was one story that stood out. A story that shows how with a little creativity, industry-relevant skills, know-how and application, you have the potential to transform developing regions like Africa. The story in question is that of the company Unchartered Play and its revolutionary product the Soccket. A football that generates electricity from kinetic motion when you play with it. One of many products that show how the application of creativity and industry-relevant skills can catalyse change in developing regions.
Make no mistake, this is an invention that has literally changed the game. A favourite pastime amongst the youth of Africa has become a fun way to generate ‘off the grid’ electricity. Students can now study with a bright LED light, once the sun goes down, after just 30 minutes of play with a Socckett football.
While Socckett was something dreamed up in the US, it is still an excellent example of how with the right skills and a creative mind, such ideas could be generated and executed even in developing regions. It doesn’t need to happen halfway around the world. In fact the only reason that it does is because Western Civilisation has easier access to industry relevant skills in education and a healthy dose of creativity to go with it. There is nothing to prove that Third World countries don’t have the potential for such game changing ideas themselves. Sticking to the sport of football, the astounding number of home-brewed, cobbled together, footballs that are used to play the sport is an example of the inherent creativity this nation’s people have.
Sizing up the field
From afar the entire problem of the need for industry relevant skills resembles a dominoes effect. The starting brick being a community, provided with the necessary skills, can earn a living and facilitate change. They are both employable and can become potential employers. An educated and prospering community in turn means that nefarious and violent acts are unnecessary to make ends meet. A reduction of violence results in the promise of stability and progress across parts of Third World Countries. This in turn is an incentive for an influx of resources and money from more developed nations. Creativity catalyses the entire equation by ensuring the value of the output is much greater than the input and the country as a result takes a leap forward instead of just a step.
Getting ready to score
The need for industry relevant skills however doesn’t underplay the need for the basic education which forms that important first step. According to UNESCO, in Africa, 10 million people drop out of primary school every year. Industry relevant skills and creativity act as the next logical step to basic education. Its growth cannot come at the cost of primary education.
Africa has a booming middle class with a fast growing disposable income. This makes it a popular market for foreign multinational companies. While these companies would love to set up shop locally, what prevents them from doing so is a lack of local talent with technical skills. Higher technical education could facilitate these skills which would encourage multinational companies to establish back office operations and support services outside their own countries at competitive prices. This translates into foreign investments into the country which act as a stimulus of growth. And the country scores.
Game plan to galvanize change
The need to inject creativity and higher technical education into third world countries is not rocket science. Which is why companies like British Petroleum who are ever aware of this have jumped on the bandwagon to implement programs as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility program to aid in teaching under privileged students relevant technical skills. It makes excellent business sense as companies will have easier access to these markets as they are grooming a potential workforce.
On a larger scale there are programs like that of the World Bank with its New Economy Skills for Africa Program-Information and Communication Technologies (NESAP-ICT). This is an initiative that focusses on developing technical skills pertaining to Information Technology and its tertiary sectors. These skills are globally benchmarked and have the potential to transform the indigenous population from a labour based economy to a knowledge force economy given time.
The need of the hour is easier and abundant access to recognised courses and partnerships with industry bodies backed by multinational support. This ensures that the workforce of Third World countries have a healthy combination of creativity and technical expertise that allows them to build home grown products like the Socckkett, the end result, micro changes for a bigger and better future in the third world.