Carpe Diem! MOOCs and Acquisition of 21st Century Skills in Africa
Africa is experiencing an unprecedented pace of economic and social transformation due in great part to the development and penetration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in all spheres of life. Over the last two decades, the digital economy has transformed many key sectors including agriculture, business, financial services (eBanking), government, health, climate change adaptation, education etc. In a few countries such as South Africa and Kenya, the ICT sector has been outperforming all the other sectors of the economy by a wide margin. In Kenya, for instance, it has been growing at an average of 20% during the last ten years (Mtebe, 2016). In Africa, and in the last five years, the sector has grown on average at 40% (InfoDev, 2014).
The transformative potential of the ICT sector for Africa’s economic growth and social development has however barely been tapped into. For example, and with very few exceptions, its capacity to boost entrepreneurship and innovation for sustained economic growth and poverty reduction has not been fully realized. The World Bank (2012) has highlighted, among other potential advantages, the role of ICTs in enhancing African regional trade and integration as well as the need to build a competitive ICT industry to promote innovation, job creation and the export potential of African companies.
However, this potential is currently being thwarted by Africa’s indecisiveness in seizing the opportunity offered by ICTs and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to produce a critical number of computer scientists who will contribute to the upliftment of its people. The current participation of Africans in computer science MOOCs in the world stands at a mere 2% as most participants come from North America and Europe.