14 January 2015

ICT job prospects for young people in Africa's Horn

Boy with a cap looking at a computer screen

A new e-Learning centre recently opened in Djibouti with the help of SOS Children’s Villages and German partners is giving disenfranchised young people the chance to learn in-demand ICT job skills and escape from a life of poverty.

14 January 2015 - Its location in the Horn of Africa, next to the Gulf of Aden, is Djibouti’s main economic asset. There are no other major industries in this small, poor African country. Its capital, Djibouti City, handles mainly Ethiopian imports and exports. Its transport facilities are used by Ethiopia and several other landlocked African countries that fly in goods for re-export.

Sadly, however, workers in Djibouti City’s port and transport centres are mostly from abroad – finding skilled local workers is not easy. Over 60 percent of the population of Djibouti is under 25 years old. Widespread poverty – due to high unemployment – is a breeding ground for criminality, including piracy, which is on the rise in the area.

SOS Children’s Villages, together with our partners, hopes to change that sad reality by investing in the futures of the country’s young people, helping them to improve their life opportunities through improved job prospects. It is the third such development project in Djibouti by SOS Children’s Villages and its partners.

In the project's first phase, a detailed feasibility study was done to determine which skills are most needed, and least available, on Djibouti's job market. Jobs in the maritime sector are of top priority in Djibouti. To compete with foreigners, local job seekers need the basic skills to work in the shipping industry, as well as ICT and general office skills.

The new e-Learning centre has three classrooms with modern work spaces and computers with internet connections. The centre has a capacity of 200 students. Photo: Ralph Gladitz
To address these skills gaps, the concept of an e-Learning centre was developed to give young people in Djibouti the chance to acquire those relevant skills and tangible opportunities for the future. In October 2014, the new SOS Children’s Villages e-Learning centre opened in the Djibouti City suburb of Balbala; it is the first of its kind in the area. During each term, up to 200 disadvantaged young people will be learning at the centre.
SOS Children's Villages designed the e-Learning centre's curricula in partnership with the Government of Djibouti, to align with national standards and ensure that the skills the students are learning match the requirements of real jobs in Djibouti City. In addition to learning how to use a computer and the internet, students attend language courses and learn how to write effective job applications.

Christof Schwaner, Press and Communication Officer for the German Shipowners’ Association, which is helping finance this ICT4D project, says that with knowledge acquired in the computer lab, young people in Balbala will no longer be as vulnerable to criminal gangs, which have significantly destabilised shipping routes off the coast of Somalia over the last four years.
“Our hope is that arming the youth in Balbala with crucial life skills in computing will keep them off the street, and reduce the possibility of becoming easy prey for pirates looking for recruits,” Mr Schwaner said. “This chance also offers the students an escape route from poverty, and a much needed choice of not joining the low-income jobs their parents are involved in.”

Wilfred Vyslozil, Aden Mohamed Dileita and Michael Behrendt show blueprints for the e-Learning centre at a press conference in Hamburg. Photo: Heinz-Joachim Hettchen
Established by SOS Children’s Villages Germany (Hermann-Gmeiner-Fonds Deutschland), the e-Learning centre is financed with help from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the German Shipowners' Association. SOS Children’s Villages thanks its institutional partners for making this project a success, and improving the education opportunities of young people in Djibouti for years to come.

Better skills, better life