Towards filling the data skills gap in the African banking sector

Williams, Mercy; Rapanotti, Lucia and Hall, Jon G. (2024). Towards filling the data skills gap in the African banking sector. In: Proceedings of 2024 International Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research (ICBAOR-2024), 25-26 Feb 2024, South Africa.


There is a strong and persistent demand for data skills across all organisations, motivated by the wish to capitalize fully on investments in business analytics. This is the case in the African banking sector which faces a growing need to extract insights from data both to improve its operation and enhance customer experience, and to manage risks arising from financial inclusion to fraud detection and regulatory compliance.

For organisations to realise their full data potential, however, their workforce must possess the proficiency to extract meaningful insights from the data. Yet, such data skills are often lacking so that a significant gap persists between organisations’ data needs and the level of data literacy of their employees. The factors that contribute to this gap and the organisational strategies that should be in place to address it is the focus of our research.
Currently, there is limited research on the level of data literacy in the African banking sector, the data skills needed by the workforce, and what banks are doing to improve them. In this paper we report on a small-scale study into this topic, conducted within Ecobank, a pan-African bank operating in 33 countries. A survey was conducted to investigate current data roles, data skills needs and opportunities for upskilling within Ecobank.
Our findings indicate that data plays a key role in decision making across the organisation with employees at all levels involved in data-related tasks. The findings also indicate that while routes to upskilling are available to the workforce, uptake is not as high as might be expected, with a great proportion of respondents (63.64%) not having taken up any opportunities in the past year. This is particularly the case among those for whom data tasks are not their main role, indicating that a wider upskilling of the workforce, beyond the data experts, remains challenging. The survey results also indicate that some routes to upskilling are more popular than others, with employees favouring educational videos and self-paced online courses. Together, these findings point to the need for more effective approaches to upskilling, to motivate and reach a wider proportion of the workforce.
While our findings only provide a snapshot of current practice at Ecobank, they may have wider significance within the banking sector in Africa, given the importance and reach of this bank in the region.

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