Digital skills training advances Zambian entrepreneurs’ ambitions
For Zambian youth and entrepreneurs, nothing could be more important than increased knowledge of, and access to, digital technology.
“With that, we could plan more efficiently and solve problems. We could improve government planning, develop our own solutions to our particular problems, and help all levels of society make well informed decisions,” said Ngabili Malumo, a 25-year-old with a background in data analytics, and water, sanitation and health services.
Malumo recently graduated from a multi-month online and in-person training course, named Digital Citizen, facilitated by the International Trade Centre’s #FastTrackTech initiative and conducted by Zambia’s Jacaranda Hub.
The Digital Citizen programme trained 300 participants on up to six digital topics ranging from IT security to databases. A selected 50 trainees were matched to mentors and went onto more intensive training, after which they also had the chance to meet with potential clients. At the end, a graduation ceremony was organized in which the selected trainees received their certificates.
“Digital technology is what is driving the world economy and in order for us to interact with more stable economies, we need to level up our digital space,” said Greyford Mwase, executive assistant, business development and strategy at Jacaranda Hub.
“We need more people involved in tech, we need to catch up with international norms and develop competitive products for the local, regional and international markets,” Mwase said
For Malumo, who works with a social impact enterprise and has been largely self-taught, the training offered valuable skills he otherwise would not have been able to afford.
“I learned how to ensure the work we do online is safe and protected, how to detect phishing, as well as working with databases and hybrid databases. The Access tool also gave us a platform to store our data efficiently and safely,” Malumo said.
Participant Chimuka Kanenga, who works in Zambia's National Agriculture Information Services department, said she was able to apply the skills she learned in the training to her job right away, and is now about to launch her own communication business.
“Before, I was content with where I was, but the training opened up a whole new level of knowledge. I learned the cost-benefit analysis of opening a new business using digital technology, how to engage with communities and target markets,” she explained.
Kanenga also used the training to create important business networks. “You have to start somewhere. And this is the start for me,” she said.
The level of innovative thinking and ambition by the participants was something even Mwase did not expect. “By the end of the program, most of them had developed websites for their startups and were studying ways to reach international markets. That’s not something you see very often,” he said.
“Many startups in Zambia are informal, they don’t register or get certifications, which leaves them out of bigger funding opportunities. This programme helped them establish corporate governance structures for their digital startups and take the necessary steps to formalize their startups with the relevant authorities,” Mwase added.
The training course brought in trainers from varying business backgrounds and mentors who provided individual coaching.
For young entrepreneurs like Malumo, digital skills provide more than just expanding businesses opportunities. They are the doorway to a more equitable future.
“I foresee a future where everyone has access to digital technology and information. The effect will be huge. Imagine if we could use big data and Artificial Intelligence technology to better design interventions for solving the many problems we face as developing countries,” Malumo said.
“These are the things my peers and I talk about.”
#FastTrackTech: Financed by Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands Trust Fund, the #FastTrackTech project is committed to supporting digital entrepreneurs who aspire to international growth in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Mali, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.