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Education is a wonderful thing, but in this day and age it’s most powerful when it leads to real jobs. That’s the idea behind SAP’s latest partnership with the World Bank to provide disadvantaged people in Africa with skills training, mentorship, and eventually jobs.

“We want to connect education to job growth. It’s not only about just training the next generation of IT professionals, but also making sure that they’re employable and employed,” says Goutam Dev, Business Manager, Office of the CEO at SAP Africa.

SAP’s collaboration with the World Bank aligns with a shared focus on education and skills development, notably through the former’s Skills for Africa program which I wrote about earlier this year. SAP’s commitment to this worthy endeavor starts at the highest company level. Skills for Africa is sponsored by SAP Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe and Pfumgwa Serima, CEO of SAP Africa. Serima visited the U.S. a couple of weeks ago to sign the agreement with the World Bank (pictured in the middle above at the signing). In addition to meetings with public and private sector leaders in Washington, D.C., Serima was a panelist speaker at the 9th Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Chicago.

This latest agreement is part of SAP’s International Funding Program launched last year to work with worldwide institutions to help make the world run better. Here’s how Alex Meyer, Vice President, Global Business Development at SAP describes the partnership:

“We have a shared mission with international funding institutions like the World Bank to improve people’s lives and make the world run better. Technology is an increasingly important component in the projects that they support around the world to fight poverty and improve economic conditions. These are issues addressable by SAP solutions as our portfolio expands both in the public and private sector. To the extent that we can work with the World Bank to help them achieve their mission, as well as ours, it’s a win-win.”

What’s interesting is that these development programs aren’t just focused on technology training. Along with the opportunity for SAP solution certification, students take courses in basic entrepreneurship as well as soft skills. The initial focus of the World Bank partnership will be on diagnostic tools to determine the unique requirements and resources of individual countries in Africa, followed by the development of a training framework for appropriate support. While SAP is currently spearheading these programs, Dev emphasizes that the goal is to achieve critical mass that will generate significant change.

“We cannot do this alone. Requirements vary by country based on demographics, job scenarios, and many other factors. Our approach is to work with the government, other institutions, customers, and partners bringing all the resources together to have the greatest impact over time,” he explains.

Basically, we’re talking about education that expands people’s options. Graduates with SAP certification training are qualified to become consultants. The skills they learn also increase overall employability, for example, as an end-user of SAP software at a company. What’s more, classes in entrepreneurship help students gain knowledge to launch a business of their own.

As for results to date from the Skills for Africa program, the first students just graduated from the Multi Media University in Kenya. Not only are they certified in solutions including SAP ERP Financials, ABAP, SAP Materials Management and other SAP technologies, but they also have internships waiting for them in the public and private sectors. Getting a solid education is the first step. Real success is when knowledge and training leads to a well-paying job.

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