Africa stands at the crossroads of opportunity, and in this dynamic economic scenario, the call for an industrial revolution reverberates across the continent. This revolution is not merely a vision; it’s a necessity for sustainable growth, leveraging the continent’s vast resources, both natural and human, to foster inclusivity and sustainable development. Realising this immense promise demands more than just political will; it requires the ability to execute complex projects.
Project management orchestrates resources, timelines, and tasks to achieve specific goals. In the context of industrial development, it involves overseeing large-scale initiatives that demand meticulous planning, execution, and adaptability. The continent has everything at its disposal to reimagine its economic growth; the trick will be to develop skills to spark and sustain industrialisation efforts. It must bridge the persistent gap between the demand for project management skills and available talent.
According to Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Talent Gap Report, an increase in the number of jobs requiring project management skills is particularly prevalent in developing and emerging countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, annual job openings are estimated to be shy of 87,000 between 2019-2030. Therefore, countries in the region must work towards addressing the shortage of skilled project managers and unlocking the continent’s full industrial potential through a strategic focus on capacity building.
Among other issues, the shortage of talent and skills was a central talking point during a webinar hosted by PMI to mark Africa Industrialisation Day. As one of the panelists, George Asamani, Managing Director, PMI, Sub-Saharan Africa, reiterated the need for more certified project managers in Africa and proffered solutions to bridge this gap.
“According to the World Bank Human Capital Index, many African countries are among those with the lowest levels of skill development. This is reflected in our statistics as well, which show that, annually, only 3,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa, on average, get project management certifications. The numbers in North America and China stand at 30,000 and 100,000, respectively. It is evident that Africa has a huge skill deficit.”
“Just as we invest in factories and infrastructure, we must also invest in human capital and capacity building for a strong and sustainable economy,” stressing the need for organisations to invest in project management expertise.
For effective capacity building, mentorship and knowledge transfer are key strategies. Mr. Asamani gave instances of this within the PMI ecosystem, where this is community-based. He explained that “the PMI community is a valuable resource for project managers globally to upskill and reskill and includes a network of over 300 Chapters across the world, including 22 in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
An approach involving collaborations and engagement with other public and private organisations and institutions is another important strategy that can promote capacity building and bridge the skills gap, further strengthening Africa’s industrialisation efforts.
“Many of us are already on this path, but we must be faster. How do we do this? To cover a wide spectrum of society, we partner with governments, companies, and educational institutions to drive capacity building,” Asamani informed the forum.
Capacity building fosters innovation and creativity, which are critical drivers of industrialisation, as they address contemporary needs and lay the foundation for a resilient future. Another member of the panel, Dr Moses Adoko, Chief Knowledge Officer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, made a case for a culture that unleashes the innovative and creative potential of young professionals as a strategic investment in capacity building.
African governments should promote a culture that unleashes young African professionals’ innovative and creative potential through incentives, policies, and regulations. For instance, educational systems across Africa must rewire the youth to think of challenges as opportunities.”
Several African nations are already making significant strides in their industrial journeys, with project management at the core of their success stories. Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam is a testament to the importance of project management, while project management methodologies steer Rwanda’s Smart Cities. Project management is a crucial driver for transforming aspirations into achievements in manufacturing and infrastructure to technology and innovation.
David Jarvis, Interim CEO of the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa, echoed similar thoughts in his keynote address. He says, “Industrial development is key to Africa’s present and future and promises to contribute to poverty eradication by creating employment and fostering wealth creation. As opportunities increase, improved project delivery will drive Africa’s growth. The focus should be on opportunities and project management’s catalytic role in unleashing industrialisation across the continent. Project management is key to delivery for any organisation operating in the real economy.”
Project management can be the driving force propelling the continent towards a brighter, more industrious future. Emphasising the crucial necessity for targeted capacity-building initiatives requires champions and championing.