Ntutule Tshenye

Ntutule Tshenye's vision is to create unique African initiatives to propel the continent's youth into the world of 21st-century technology. And the Samsung Africa business-to-government and corporate citizenship head's vision is fast becoming a reality.

A former Youth Development Trust CEO and head of Microsoft's African corporate citizen initiative, Tshenye does not think small. "We will have trained 10000 young people in our electronics engineering academies by 2015," he says. Not bad going for an initiative launched only in March 2011 with the opening of the first academy in Boksburg.

The Boksburg academy has an annual throughput of 560 students and was joined by similar facilities in Kenya and Nigeria in 2012. Soon to be opened are academies in Côte d'Ivoire and Ethiopia and a second in Nigeria.

The initiative was born out of difficulty Samsung Africa and its partners have finding skilled young people. "The aim is to match the demand for skills with the appropriate supply," says Tshenye.

"In the academies students spend 80% of their time learning hands-on skills and only 20% on theory," says Tshenye. "They are equipped to go straight into employment." Their skills are sought in areas such as product assembly, repairs and servicing, sales and call centres. "We are getting very positive feedback on our graduates."

To bring young people into the world of technology, the challenge at school level must also be addressed, says Tshenye. "To succeed, our continent's youth must be exposed to technology from an early age," he stresses.

But few schools in Africa have Internet access, says Tshenye. A major obstacle is lack of an electricity source. One of Samsung's answers is the world's first solar-powered Internet school. "We took a 40ft container, insulated it against heat and turned it into a classroom equipped with state-of-the-art equipment powered by solar panels and batteries," says Tshenye.

There are now seven in operation, one each in SA, Lesotho, Angola, Nigeria, Rwanda, Côte d'Ivoire and Botswana. The initiative was chosen as African solar project of the year at the 2012 Africa Energy Awards.

"I see a big future for solar power in Africa," says Tshenye. Samsung, he adds, will take the next step in this direction in March when it launches a solar electricity generator designed to power school computer systems.

More initiatives will undoubtedly follow. "We listen to local African people," says Tshenye. "They come up with amazing ideas we can use."