Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 21 May 2020 \u2013 As part of its continued efforts to build digital skills capacity, employability, and close the skills gap on the African continent, Microsoft 4Afrika has partnered with Pan-African EdTech company and talent marketplace Gebeya Inc. and the Technology and Innovation Institute, Ethiopia (TechIn) to launch its first virtual SkillsLab in Ethiopia. The lines between the physical and digital worlds are blurring while the job landscape undergoes huge changes through the creation of jobs that didn't exist before. In fact, the World Economic Forum (WEF) Future of Work report estimates that automation and AI alone could displace 75 million jobs by 2022 while creating another 133 million new roles as companies rework the division of labor between humans and machines. As new technologies drive the decline in low-skilled jobs, there is a need to upskill and reskill in order to stay competitive. This is particularly true in Africa where a skills gap persists. According to a WEF survey, 87% of African business leaders are concerned about the availability of key skills with 45% noting \u201cextreme\u201d concern. Addressing the skills gap is critical to Africa\u2019s future success. Through the SkillsLab programme, which develops the digital skills, coding capabilities and workplace readiness of young university graduates, Microsoft 4Afrika and its partners Gebeya and TechIn will provide apprenticeship-based training to 200 African software engineers, where they will work with experienced software engineers over the course of up to six months. Microsoft 4Afrika\u2019s SkillsLab programme helps students to develop essential workplace skills and provide them with practical experiences, leveraging emerging technologies to develop innovative technology solutions. The SkillsLab will work with the students virtually to develop these skills. After graduating from the programme, apprentices have priority access to jobs through the Microsoft Partner Network. In addition, the skills gained from the programme ensure that these graduates have the know-how to become successful entrepreneurs. \u201cOutpacing the rate of change driven by emerging technologies, there is a need for nimble and continued learning opportunities that can derive tangible benefits,\u201d says Amrote Abdella, Regional Director, Microsoft 4Afrika. \u201cThrough its skilling initiatives, Microsoft aims to address these challenges by skilling and upskilling individuals to adequately seize these opportunities.\u201d \u201cWe are excited to be working with Microsoft to introduce this new version of the already previously successful SkillsLab programme as it directly aligns with Gebeya\u2019s values of increasing employability, productivity, and producing the best of African talent,\u201d says Amadou Daffe, CEO and Co-Founder of Gebeya. \u201cApprentices of the programme will receive top-line training and mentoring as well as the market-relevant hands-on experience in project management needed to meet global standards.\u201d \u201cWe have partnered with Microsoft in this initiative as it is a vital support mechanism in helping to bridge the skills gap and increase employability rates for our talented young graduates. This SkillsLab will ensure career readiness for apprentices by providing them with not only DevOps and Data Science skills, but also critical thinking, collaboration and communication, and creative skills,\u201d adds Sandokan Debebe, Director General of TechIn. SkillsLab programmes that were previously run in Ethiopia have proven successful. Microsoft 4Afrika had partnered with the Ethiopian Airlines Group, to train young ICT graduates, equipping them with the skills needed to become ICT professionals and software engineers in the airline industry. After completing their apprenticeship, graduates could access jobs at Ethiopian Airlines and its affiliate airlines in Africa. A second partnership with Tulane University Centre for Global Health Equity and Microsoft 4Afrika set up a SkillsLab (previously known as the AppFactory) to develop digital skills in healthcare at the Wollo University Kombolcha Institute of Technology. In January 2018, the first cohort of 21 apprentices graduated and 90% secured jobs as programmers, working for Wollo University and major hospitals across Addis Ababa. In seven years, the 4Afrika initiative has produced 2,073 graduates from 19 SkillsLabs across the continent, with an 85% employment rate achieved within three months of graduating. The initiative has been recognized by the International Finance Corporation as a best practice example of developing skills in sub-Saharan Africa. This SkillsLab will focus on providing students with hands-on practice through 30 hours a week of training and mentoring on industry-based online courses and cloud-based product knowledge where students will earn Microsoft certification. If you are a fresh or unemployed graduate, or even a final\ufffeyear university student, who wants to participate in the programme and gain world-class certification, you can apply here (https:\/\/aka.ms\/Ethiopia-SkillsLab). \u201cIn light of the economic, business, and social changes that we\u2019re seeing during the Covid-19 crisis, the need for skilling has never been higher. Africa has a unique opportunity to be a skills hub for the world and Ethiopia, with its large youth population can lead the way in enabling its youth to engage in the digital workforce,\u201d adds Microsoft 4Afrika\u2019s Abdella. About Microsoft 4Afrika Microsoft (Nasdaq \u201cMSFT\u201d @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. The 4Afrika Initiative is Microsoft\u2019s business and market development engine in Africa. Launched in 2013, it aims to unlock and accelerate Africa\u2019s potential to create technology not only for the continent but for the world. In seven years, the 4Afrika initiative has reached 1,7 million small and medium businesses, supported more than 300 startups, 12 accelerator partnerships, upskilled 108,000 Africans in Microsoft Cloud Society, placed 926 interns with 176 partners with an 85 percent retention rate, and produced 2,073 graduates from 19 Skills Labs, with an 85% employment rate. The initiative has been recognized by the International Finance Corporation as a best practice example of developing skills in sub-Saharan Africa. About Gebeya Inc. Gebeya Inc. is a Pan-African Ed Tech and online talent marketplace company headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The company focuses on cultivating the untapped potential of the African youth through its training programmes to prepare them for the demands of the global job market. Gebeya aims to become an active contributor to Africa\u2019s digital transformation and build a booming Africa through continental and global job opportunities. Its vision is to be the most trusted and reliable source of skilled talent that showcases Africa\u2019s competitiveness. For more information, visit www.gebeya.com. About TechIn The Technology and Innovation Institute (TechIn) facilitates, implements, and improves research and development of innovation and technology in identifying sectoral development actors of the country through cutting-edge technology. It supports manufacturers and service providers to make them internationally competitive through providing research and development activities, enhancing technologies, prototypes, and other similar activities; and making research findings accessible.