File picture: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
File picture: Reuters/Dado Ruvic

BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY: Bridging the digital skills gap is key to addressing unemployment

By Opinion Time of article published Mar 26, 2021

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By Brenton Naicker

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for government and industry to harness new technologies and find data-driven solutions towards reducing youth unemployment challenges plaguing South Africa. In his annual Budget Speech this week, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said that current structural weaknesses in the country’s economic reforms policies have limited the rate at which our economy can grow. Lowering the barriers to entry for jobseekers is one way to achieve this.

As the country prepares for slow economic recovery in a post-Covid world, the demand for technical skills has become greater than ever. According to 2020 data from StatsSA, youth unemployment in SA currently stands at 59%. Finding novel and sustainable approaches to bridging the digital skills gap has now become top of mind for job seekers and employers alike. And with advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and other emerging technologies like blockchain now happening in shorter cycles, the desire to change the very nature of the jobs that need to be done - and the demand for skills needed to do them – has increased exponentially.

This is where blockchain technology - a revolutionary technology popularly referred to as ‘the backbone of digital currencies’ – can effectively bridge the digital divide in terms of employment opportunities and job creation. It serves as a digital database of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network of computer systems, but careers in the industry span a vast array of industries: from blockchain developers, blockchain architects, and blockchain lawyers, to graphic designers and marketing professionals. Due to this wide range of available jobs within the blockchain industry, educational programmes aimed at filling these spaces are essential.

Implementing blockchain education programmes in communities may address and redress the current skills shortage. Lack of education remains inextricably linked to rising unemployment rates in the country, despite renewed investment in job creation initiatives by government.

Digital upskilling offers the easiest path to solving unemployment issues - by creating opportunities for and deploying the mass of stagnant talent we have in South Africa and across the continent.

As the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance has recognised the need to invest in African talent by reducing barriers of entry into blockchain through free and widely-accessible programmes, providing funding for startups, and ongoing investment in blockchain-based initiatives. In the past year we’ve educated over 70 000 people across Africa on topics such as crypto fundamentals and avoiding scams, practical tutorials on how to set up a crypto account, technical analysis and crypto trading , the venture space and blockchain education; we recently concluded an 8-week developer programme for 1000 developers from Africa who were trained on how to build various blockchain applications on Binance Smart Chain.

Remote work, which has been commonplace within the digital asset and blockchain sectors, has also created a unique opportunity for these industries to employ global labour in a way that hasn’t been seen in corporations before. It casts a positive outlook on the future - given the rapid pace at which the digital assets and blockchain industries are growing, and companies are now hiring at that exact same rate. The opportunity for African and South African youth to meaningfully get involved with the global blockchain industry – which grows in leaps and bounds every day - is huge, and Binance has spearheaded initiatives like our master-classes to ensure that people are exposed to opportunities within blockchain on a consistent basis.

Upskilling and reskilling a new and emerging workforce remains critical to South Africa’s economic recovery. It’s only through investing in individuals and allowing them to bridge the digital divide through free and accessible digital access initiatives and programmes, that we can ensure South Africa is well-equipped to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Brenton Naicker is the Business Development Manager for Binance: South Africa.

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