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New Economy Skills for Africa Program-Information and Communication Technologies

NESAP-ICT is an innovative program launched by the World Bank in 2008 to support countries in Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) in building skills for the knowledge economy. It focuses initially on globally-benchmarked, employable skills for the Information Technology (IT) and IT Enabled Services (ITES) industry—a sector that can create thousands of new jobs and catalyze economic and social transformation.

The IT/ITES industry offers young people the prospect of work in many areas. In IT the options include hardware and software maintenance, network administration, help desk services, applications development and maintenance and R&D; while in ITES, they include call center and back office operations, multimedia, and animation and cross-industry services such as Finance and Accounts and Human Resources.

The encouraging news is that the global “potential” for IT/ITES outsourcing is currently estimated at US$ 500 billion, only 15% of which seems to have been tapped; and is expected to treble to US$1.5 to 1.6 trillion by 2020. The lack of skilled manpower is a binding constraint to realizing the potential of the sector. Even India which has 30% of the global labor supply suitable for the industry expects a shortfall of 0.8 to 1.2 million skilled workers for its ITES industry by 2012. SSA is thus keen to boost its "talent" profile so as to benefit from this burgeoning market opportunity 




Bringing Africa onto the global IT-ITES radar screen

The soon-to-be-completed submarine fiber optic cable networks around Africa, and the terrestrial backbone networks that are now being laid promise a new era of affordable, high speed broadband connectivity throughout the continent. African countries therefore hope to claim a slice of the global IT-ITES business. Emerging successes include: Mauritius in “eco-friendly IT”, South Africa in “IT-enabled financial services” and Egypt in “multilingual call centers.” Senegal, Kenya, Ghana, Madagascar and Nigeria are stepping onto the global outsourcing stage. All these countries believe that skilled workers are critical for deepening and sustaining their momentum.



Potential for new jobs,economic growth, and increased productivity

IT can transform the economy and affect people’s lives, as experiences in various countries suggest:

  • New jobs come with a robust IT-ITES industry. In India, the industry’s expansion in the past 15 years added more than 10 million direct and indirect jobs. In South Africa it is expected to employ 100,000 workers directly and indirectly by 2009; in the Philippines, it is projected to employ a total of 900,000 people by 2010;

  • Economic growth from increased exports and revenues is another benefit. In 2009, the Indian IT-ITES industry will contribute an estimated US$70 billion to the GDP, a share of 6%; in the Philippines the industry’s contribution in 2010 is expected to reach US$13 billion, about 8 percent of the GDP.

  • Increased productivity from economy-wide IT integration is also showing up as a result of the rapid spread of e-applications and digital tools to such diverse areas as manufacturing, transportation, logistics, finance, banking, governance, health, education and even in traditional sectors like agriculture. IT investments have been found to raise worker productivity three to five times that of non-IT capital. Studies of the US have shown that they were responsible for two-thirds of total factor productivity growth between 1995 and 2002 and for virtually all of the growth in labor productivity in that period.

Products, Services


Building a pool of globally-benchmarked IT-ITES talent in Africa

NESAP-ICT is about skills that resonate with international standards in the IT/ITES industry and that are employable. It therefore emphasizes:

  • Globally-benchmarked, industry-rated skills assessment, training and certification.
  • "Bridge" style training programs that align what students are taught and what industry requires.
  • Industry collaboration, for example, through “knowledge hubs” to develop curricula, learning content, and testing and certification standards.
  • Mainstreaming ICT in education to take advantage of IT-enabled learning and to prepare future generations of IT-savvy workers.

NESAP-ICT is assisting eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa:



Lesson Learnt and Results

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Eight SSA countries benefit from 3 types of support under NESAP-ICT

Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Senegal currently participate in the NESAP-ICT program. The support they receive include:

  • Technical assistance to assess needs and develop implementation strategies tailored to country conditions and development goals;
  • Capacity building through knowledge sharing and south-south learning; and
  • Facilitation of new partnerships with the best-in-class learning institutions, industry associations, global certification providers, and global technology companies.

Contextualizing the NESAP-ICT interventions

Besides a skilled workforce, growing a vibrant IT/ITES industry also requires a supportive “ecosystem” that includes such factors as:

  • Infrastructure such as technology- and cyber-parks, telecom backbone, reliable utilities, to provide conducive operating conditions;
  • Policies to create a conducive business friendly environment and to address legal and regulatory issues as well as gaps in infrastructure, skills, and financing;
  • Hassle-free facilitation of interactions between potential IT/ITES investors and their government counterparts, by removing red tape and expediting clearances;
  •  Organizational setup to foster entrepreneurship, business incubation and productive partnerships (e.g., between researchers and industry) and to help entrepreneurs tap into domestic and global IT/ITES markets.
  • Promotional programs to attract foreign and local investors to the industry.

Combining multiple competencies of the World Bank Group

NESAP-ICT is a multi-sectoral program supported by experienced staff from across the World Bank Group, including the Departments of Human Development and of Private Sector Development in the Africa Region and the Global Information and Communication Technology Department.



NESAP-ICT countries are leveraging south-south learning

In February 2009, 54 senior delegates from the 8 NESAP-ICT countries travelled to Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad in India for a two-week study visit. The visit was financed by grants from the World Bank’s South-South Experience Exchange Trust Fund (SEETF) and the Norwegian Post Primary Education Fund (NPEF) and hosted by NASSCOM, the association of IT/ITES firms in India

Telephone interviews from the supply side:





Mr. Jonathan Defensor De Luzuriaga
Executive Director - Industry Affairs
Business Processing Association Philippines

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Dr. Uma Ganesh
CEO, Global Talent Track P LTD, India

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Mr. Madan Padaki
CEO, Merit Trac, India

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Lessons Learned

Several lessons emerged from the learning visit:

  • IT-ITES outsourcing can rapidly transform a country’s economy and improve people’s lives
  • Skills and employability are key drivers of the industry’s growth
  • The Diaspora can be an important resource for growing the IT/ITES industry
  • Public-private partnerships are common and vital in the IT/ITES business
  • Growing the IT-ITES industry requires a favorable business ecosystem

A few months after the India visit, high-level policy makers from the same 8 countries visited Singapore on another study visit to learn more about that country’s economic success. The visit reinforced lessons from the India visit, exposed participants to the economy-wide impact of the IT revolution, and reiterated the central role of industry-relevant skills development.

NESAP-ICT countries are leveraging south-south learning

NESAP-ICT recognizes the role of south-south learning in acceleration and catch-up. In February 2009, 54 senior delegates from 8 NESAP-ICT countries participated in a south-south learning exchange to Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad in India. The visit was sponsored by the World Bank’s South-South Exchange Fund (SEETF) and hosted by NASSCOM, the association of IT-ITES firms in India.

Several lessons emerged from the learning visit:

  • IT-BPO can rapidly transform a country’s economy and improve people’s lives
  • Skills and employability are key drivers of the industry’s growth
  • The Diaspora can play a key role in industry’s success
  • Public-private partnerships (PPP) are common and vital in the IT-BPO business
  • Growing the IT-BPO industry requires a favorable business ecosystem

After India, high level policy makers from the same 8 countries visited Singapore to learn how deliberate policies, strategies and institutions can develop a skills-driven economy.

Contact info

For more information, please visit the program website at or write to



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