Platform-Led Upskilling

Technology has demonstrated the ability to scale access to finance in Africa.
This content is pulled from the Mastercard Foundation's Platform Led Upskilling Project, led and managed by Caribou Digital

However, it is yet to be seen how it will equip and create work opportunities at scale for the millions of youth on the continent. There are over 270 platforms in Africa that connect young people to employment opportunities in their local markets, and employers in developed markets are now recruiting freelance workers for focused, time-bound assignments beyond their borders. This global access could be beneficial for the young, tech-savvy African youth, allowing them to better compete for both international and local work experience.

Technology is reshaping how and when people use financial services and more so how they earn their incomes in the first place. Every day more and more research draws insights from a diverse portfolio of fintech partners to identify and understand emerging trends, such as how digital platforms(marketplaces) facilitate financial services to digitizing workers and small to medium-sized enterprises(SME's).

This is where we get into Platform-Led Upskilling. This is the training that marketplace platforms provide to small and medium scale vendors and self-employed workers, even outside the scope of a conventional employer-employee relationship. It is a widespread and crucial part of doing business, especially in regions with significant skill gaps such as Africa.

It happens in three ways:

1. Face-to-face or interpersonal interactions
2. Online Training
3. In-workflow Training moments

The content of the upskilling includes various combinations of platform proficiencies, a manual on how to use the digital platform, financial and digital literacies, vocation specific skills and soft skills. The crucial aspect of platform-led upskilling in Africa is that which results in portable, adaptable skills and adds to the overall level of expertise in a workforce. When delivered by platforms, such upskilling can strengthen the social contract and relationship between platforms and workers, and it brings platforms into the broader education landscape of the markets in which they operate.

Platform-led upskilling is the kernel and cornerstone of a powerful alignment between the individual strengths and goals of marketplace platforms, their users(labourers, suppliers and customers), and the development community's interest in promoting prosperity and skilled workforces on the continent.

However, the implementation of platform-led upskilling has proven to come with its fair share of challenges. It is difficult and expensive to orchestrate. Moreover, there is a lot of work to be done to refine it as a craft and create sources of advantage for marketplace platforms. Mobilizing platform-led upskilling will involve platforms, governments, the private sector and the development sector collaborating in new knowledge exchanges and strategic partnerships to create better livelihoods in the digital era.

There are six calls to action:

1. Platforms can improve their upskilling activities immediately.
2. Platforms can frame the upskilling that they are doing in language that will resonate with strategic partners and stakeholders in the economic development sector. 3. Together, platforms and the development community can form new upskilling partnerships.
4. Together, they can build an evidence base about transformational upskilling.
5. Together they can nurture a broader community of practice.
6. And lastly, together they can build a supportive ecosystem to advance further the impact of upskilling on individual workers and workforces as a whole.

The ability to continuously learn, grow and strive to improve is vital to the millions of youth on the African continent who desire to fulfil their potential. With platforms positioned to offer the finance and market access required to realize that potential, transformational upskilling, especially when it leads to transferable skills, will become a critical ingredient for success.

Platforms like Uber and Jumia increasingly recognize the value of building providers' skills. Uber now offers financial literacy training sessions-in person educational seminars run by the Old Mutual Group for Uber-driver partners. These sessions aim to equip Uber-driver partners with critical money management skills, entrepreneurial skills, information on how to manage their finances best and instil the habit of developing healthy and responsible saving habits. Sessions were launched in 2016 in South Africa, and following their successful implementation, sessions expanded to Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya in 2017.

Uber-driver partners receive invitations in-app and via email about each monthly session and can apply to attend. The strategic partnership between Uber and Old Mutual was formed primarily to benefit driver-partners who need the necessary skills to ensure they are successful as small business owners.

The Country Manager for Uber South Africa said this:

"The financial wellbeing of driver-partners is a key priority for Uber. We are constantly working hard to ensure we are investing in driver-partners and assisting them in building sustainable businesses. With our ongoing partnership with Old Mutual, we are making it accessible for our driver-partners to have all the necessary skills to assist them in managing their money and further increasing their chances of running a successful business."

While platformization will transform markets and livelihoods everywhere, this is most true in Africa, where there is an urgent need and a unique opportunity to provide new forms of livelihoods to a young, growing and eager population seeking meaningful work opportunities.

By Ian Kamanu Wanjohi

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