DigiSkills Africa workshop enhances big data and techno skills of young graduates

More than 40 participants from 8 African countries attended the in-person part of the Digital Transformation Programme – Technological Skills for Industry 4.0 in Cape Town, South Africa from 7 to 11 November 2022. A further 20 participants attended the workshop online.

More than 40 participants from 8 African countries participated in the DigiSkills Afria workshop held in Cape Town between 7 and 11 November 2022. Photo credit: SARAO

The Digital Transformation programme, developed by Ireland-based InnoGlobal, is an adaptation of the Master’s degree programme on Digital Transformation offered through InnoGlobal’s higher education institute, InnoPharma Education. This year’s programme was run as a pilot project, called DigiSkills Africa, with funding for the in-person workshop provided by the UK Newton Fund through the Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) Big Data project. SARAO, a delivery partner of the UK-South Africa Newton Fund through the DARA and DARA Big Data projects, led the local hosting and implementation of the course with the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) South Africa.

The programme focused on enhancing participants’ knowledge, skills and competencies associated with the concepts of the smart factory and the evolution of life science manufacturing from a traditional reactive process to the emergence of Industry 4.0 and Pharma 4.0. Learners researched the current and future trends in life science manufacturing; the application and impact of greater use of technology, data analysis and visualisation on current performance; the impact on organisations and their levels of maturity to complete such transformations as well as ethical and corporate social responsibilities associated with such changes.

The one-week workshop was preceded by various online courses and lectures with the in-person workshop offering the participants the opportunity to learn more and network with their fellow participants and lecturers. At the workshop participants were exposed to Pharma product development, as well as data in Pharma product development, the role of data in the smart factory and digital technologies in Pharma, food processing and manufacturing. Participants were also exposed to concepts for Industry 4.0 and the future of high-tech manufacturing through Industry 5.0.

The in-person workshop included a range of guest speakers from research organisations such as the South African Medical Research Council and SARAO, covering topics on the Precision Medicine agenda for South Africa, SARAO’s role in the National Ventilator Project and the skills needs for South Africa to develop human capacity and leadership in data driven radio astronomy. This was complemented by guest speakers from the private sector represented by ASPEN Pharmacare, who presented the pharmaceutical landscape in South Africa that includes local facilities for the production of pharmaceuticals and skills needed in the sector. In addition, the global Multinational company, DHL, gave a contribution on the role of digital tools in transforming their supply chain in the last decade. The high-level skills agenda for South Africa and a country approach to skills was presented by a representative of the Department of Science and Innovation.

Ireland’s Ambassador to South Africa, Her Excellency Fionnuala Gilsenan, welcomed the participants to the workshop on 9 November 2022, drawing similarities between South Africa and Ireland society.

At the networking event held on 10 November 2022 Kagiso Masete, Deputy Director: Bilateral Relations – Europe and Gulf States at the Department of Science and Innovation noted: “The Department is proud to be associated with this programme which we believe will have a significant impact on the future career prospects of the participants. We are very pleased to see the growth of our partnership with Ireland and the DARA programme and are committed to future programmes like this which look to enhance the skills of graduates across Africa.”

Paul Deane, Trade, Education and Skills Counsellor at the Embassy of Ireland said: “This programme is an example of how we can leverage Irish expertise in technology to help generate African solutions to African problems. Programmes such as these helps to identify future leaders in African countries that can be equipped with the relevant skills to aid their home countries.”

Dr Amelia Marutle, Newton Fund Country Manager for South Africa noted: “Programmes such as these are critical in order to train and produce a new generation of data scientists and technicians as the move to digital technologies in Africa will lead to a more equitable future for all.” She also rallied the participants to stay networked and focused on taking advantage of all the opportunities available to them to grow their careers. “Remember you are all digital transformation ambassadors and your skills and talent are invaluable for the digitalisation of Africa,” said Marutle.

Dr Ian Jones, Founder and CEO of the InnoPharma Group, thanked the partners for making the programme possible. “A great start is half the work. I encourage you all to tell other people what you know and I look forward to scaling the programme and doing it again.”

“It is truly remarkable to see the difference in confidence levels of participants from the beginning and at the end of this workshop,” says Dr Bonita de Swardt, Programme Manager: Strategic Partnerships for Human Capital Development at SARAO. “Many of the participants are either unemployed graduates, or reaching the end of their degree with some graduates not sure how to transition to a new job role. This programme has given them more than the technical knowledge on how digitization is changing work environments. I would like to thank all the partners for their hard work over the past few months in bringing the first DigiSkills Africa programme to the continent,” De Swardt continued.

Participants will now take part in post-workshop sessions which will include live online lecturing, virtual and digital labs and career mentorship which will continue into early next year.

The DigiSkills Africa workshop focused on enhancing participants’ knowledge, skills and competencies associated with the concepts of the smart factory and the evolution of life science manufacturing from a traditional reactive process to the emergence of Industry 4.0 and Pharma 4.0. Photo credit: SARAO

More about the partners of this initiative

The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO)

The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), a facility of the National Research Foundation, is responsible for managing all radio astronomy initiatives and facilities in South Africa, including the MeerKAT Radio Telescope in the Karoo, and the Geodesy and VLBI activities at the HartRAO facility. SARAO also coordinates the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (AVN) for the eight SKA partner countries in Africa, as well as South Africa’s contribution to the infrastructure and engineering planning for the Square Kilometre Array Radio Telescope. To maximise the return on South Africa’s investment in radio astronomy, SARAO is managing programmes to create capacity in radio astronomy science and engineering research, and the technical capacity required to support site operations.

Website: https://www.sarao.ac.za

Newton Fund and DARA Big Data

This initiative is funded by the UK-South Africa Newton Fund partnership under the DARA Big Data project. DARA Big Data is a human capacity development intervention with the goal of equipping African countries forming part of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) partnership with the skills needed for data-driven science and big data technologies. The project builds on the diverse set of skills required for hosting of cutting-edge radio astronomy infrastructure through the SKA and African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (AVN), with a focus on the translation of skills for an even broader impact on Africa’s data-driven development.

More information on the Newton Fund and DARA Big Data can be found here:

Website: https://www.newton-gcrf.org

Website: https://www.darabigdata.com

AIMS South Africa

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is Africa’s first network of centres of excellence in mathematical sciences. It enables the continent’s youth to shape the continent’s future through Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) education, training Africa’s next generation of leaders. AIMS South Africa is one of the centres of excellence for training, research and public engagement in Cape Town, South Africa. AIMS South Africa was established in 2003 as a partnership project of: Cambridge University, the University of Cape Town, Oxford University, the University of Paris Sud XI, Stellenbosch University, and the University of the Western Cape.

Website: https://aims.ac.za

InnoGlobal and InnoPharma Education

InnoGlobal, based in Dublin, Ireland but thinking and operating globally, have an excellent track record in development, co-ordination and deployment of skills initiatives across multiple industries and continents. The company is uniquely qualified to facilitate digital and green transformations for enterprises and governments, with a focus on building the knowledge and culture that enable successful implementation and outcomes for industries, nations and most importantly – people.

InnoGlobal, through its higher education institute, InnoPharma Education, operates at the forefront of skills and learning in high-tech manufacturing, advancing skills and capabilities across the pharmaceutical, medtech and food science industries. Established in 2009, InnoPharma Education works with its education partners to develop and deliver industry-focused and accredited qualifications to meet the needs of Ireland’s growing STEM sectors. Specifically designed for those who wish to change or advance their career in the pharmaceutical, medical device or food sectors, its courses upskill and equip people from diverse backgrounds with the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully secure promising career opportunities in these fast-growing sectors.

InnoGlobal’s sister company Innopharma Technology designs and develops Pharma 4.0 data and technology solutions to help development and manufacturing teams improve their processes and deliver better outcomes in drug manufacturing. This research and insight ensure real world relevance of InnoPharma Education’s programmes – both at undergraduate and postgraduate level.


For more information contact:

Dr Bonita de Swardt

SARAO Programme Manager: Strategic Partnerships for Human Capital Development

Email: bonita@sarao.ac.za

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