South African CEOs are struggling to find digital skills

A report from auditor and advisory firm PwC shows that South African based chief executive officers (CEO) are increasingly worried about the speed of technological change and the talent available to meet those changes.

CEOs are concerned about the extent to which their organisations can cope with digitisation, and where they will find the talent necessary to take advantage of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. “They know that they need to move further and faster,” the report said.

Ninety-eight percent of South African CEO respondents say they are worried about the availability of key skills.

Globally, more than 76% of CEOs are concerned about the lack of digital skills within their own workforce (22% are extremely worried), and 23% are extremely concerned about the digital skills of their own leadership teams.

South African CEOs are also somewhat concerned about these issues, particularly in their organisations, as shown in the accompanying figures, which compare the views of South African CEOs to their global counterparts.


Pierre le Roux, group managing director of technology solutions provider, Moyo Business Advisory (MBA), said recently that a dire shortage of highly skilled engineers and ICT professionals is severely constraining the growth of South Africa’s high technology sector.

Le Roux said that technology solutions providers are increasingly getting squeezed by the fact that they are unable to source enough locals to grow their businesses.

The fact that fewer than 60% of all rare skills visa applications for highly skilled foreigners are approved by the home affairs department further complicates the issue, he said.

Many of these so-called foreigners were expatriates from elsewhere in Africa who had lived and studied in South Africa for many years.

Le Roux said the haemorrhaging of high-skilled professionals who are choosing to leave South Africa for ‘greener pastures’ abroad is significantly adding to the problem.

“Because we deal with these workers on a daily basis and have built our company to where we are now thanks to their skill-set, we are probably more aware of the impact of this brain drain than most other employers in South Africa.”

Conrad Steyn, product sales specialist at Cisco’s Collaboration portfolio meanwhile recently told BusinessTech that the local school curriculum needs to change – to be updated to reflect the skills requirements in the workplace in South Africa.

Steyn said that some parts of the school curriculum are between 20 and 30 years old. “There needs to be more flexibility, we need to start bringing in programability into the school curriculum. Tech is constantly evolving, the openness and progamability is changing,” he said.

It is obvious that companies need to prioritise digital transformation so that they can effectively compete in a world where digital developments such as AI and the speed of technological change can either significantly enhance, or negatively impact business success, PwC’s report said.

“The results will depend on the company’s readiness to embrace change, and whether its human workforce can work effectively alongside automation and AI,” it said.

With the rise of digitisation and the demand for high-performing talent that can drive digital transformation, it is of paramount importance that boards put in place well-designed succession plans for CEOs and top management.

Read: South African executives are preparing to skill their employees for new roles: study

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South African CEOs are struggling to find digital skills