Nick Barniville, board member of ESMT’s Circle of Friends and non-executive director, iiAfrica
Industry Immersion Africa (iiAfrica) is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing together the worlds of academia and industry. The organization, based in South Africa, is focused on bridging the employability gap for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) graduates throughout Africa. This is done through three programs currently on offer across the continent: the Industry Immersion Program (IIP), the Entrepreneurship Immersion Program, and the Ghana1000 program.
Ghana1000 was launched in September 2023 as a partnership with the National Service Scheme (NSS) of the Government of Ghana. This “National Immersion Program” recruited over 750 STEM graduates to its first cohort, and will launch its second cohort of 250 participants in March 2024, achieving the target to train over 1000 graduates in its first year. The program enables recent graduates from universities across Ghana to receive tuition from top global business schools in data analytics and business intelligence skills to enable them to contribute more to their host organizations during their national service. A secondary aim is to increase retention of these graduates with their host organizations on completion of the NSS.
The content of the program is based on the Industry Immersion Program, a pan-African initiative which has been running since 2017 in cooperation with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), with annual cohorts in Ghana, South Africa, Cameroon, Rwanda and Kenya. An initial six-week intensive academic program is offered online, and participants are tracked through internships and postgraduate employment.
Academic content for the program is provided by faculty from ESMT Berlin, a leading global business school in Germany, and from the University of Victoria in Canada. Faculty from ESMT Berlin provide all academic content for the program pro bono including core subjects of data analytics, organizational behavior, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Academic tutors are hired locally and trained to teach the content by volunteers from Academics without Borders, a Canadian non-governmental organization (NGO). This ensures complete scalability of the program. The academic content is complemented by a soft-skills program which is delivered primarily by alumni of the Industry Immersion Program.
The NSS program provides new graduates with work experience while ensuring priority sectors of life in Ghana do not lack the human resources necessary for continued national development. To support the NSS program, and to allow the graduates to focus on learning, the Ghana1000 initiative for STEM graduates is provided entirely free, with initial funding for the program coming from the Mastercard Foundation. Participants are provided with free internet connectivity through an agreement with MTN. Harvard Business Publishing provide supporting materials under pro bono licence agreements, and the program is delivered on the leading global online learning experience platform, insendi. Live classes and the virtual campus are facilitated through Zoom campus. All partners provide their support as part of their social impact activities.
One of the first graduates, Adama Yussif, outlines what attracted him to the program in the first place: “What initially attracted me to the Ghana1000 program was the fantastic opportunity given to young graduates to expand their knowledge and connect with business-minded people. It further helped students with soft skills, data analytics skills, and how to be effective and efficient at their workplaces.”
Speaking with another graduate, the benefits of the program are exemplified. “The most valuable aspect of Ghana1000 for me was having access to world-class professionals and lecturers to guide me along my journey,” explains Adom Yaa Afrakomaa Amponsem. “Thanks to this program, I have become a better team player. I can use Microsoft Power BI and I have built a solid foundation to transition from academia into industry.”
Throughout the business world, being able to understand and interpret data collected can provide vital insight. Therefore, organizations need to ensure they are hiring STEM graduates with the skills and expertise to work productively with data and drive the success of the organization, whether in the public or private sector. Providing participants of the Ghana1000 initiative with up-to-date knowledge and an international learning environment delivers significant value to Ghanaian industry.
Working with renowned global academic and strategic partners, Ghana1000 further supports the country’s adoption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), ensuring Ghana embraces and benefits from recent and current rapid technological developments. Building on developments of the Third Industrial Revolution, the 4IR includes artificial intelligence, biotechnology, renewable energy, and augmented and virtual reality, among other areas.
Assuming the program has a measurable positive impact within industry, iiAfrica will grow the Ghana1000 program significantly over the next five years, and aims to extend the model to other African countries.
While the program has already graduated its first cohort, the official launch to industry will take place in Accra with the Industry Engagement Forum on May 22-23, 2024.