Harare: 27 February 2018: An overhaul of the system of education in Africa is urgently needed in order to stop countries from continuing to invest in unemployment, says the Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie.
Speaking to the media at ACBF headquarters in Harare on 20 February, as part of the signing ceremony of a Cooperation Agreement between ACBF and the African Union Commission (AUC) that formally establishes the ACBF as a Specialized Agency of the African Union for Capacity Building, Prof Nnadozie urged the continent to focus on educational output and how it impacts on Africa’s development agenda and the lives of the people.
“Thanks to the work that we did at ACBF,” Prof Nnadozie said, “we realized that 80 to 90% of graduates in many African universities are in the humanities, social sciences, arts and other areas. I don’t want to be misquoted here that I say those are not important disciplines because given my background I cannot afford to denigrate any discipline. I believe that they are all important for human existence.
“But you have to ask yourself ‘what do I want to achieve’, and that must inform where you spend your resources. And I am afraid that many African countries are investing in unemployment and that is totally unacceptable,” the Executive Secretary said.
Explaining further, he said every African country today has a transformation agenda and wants to emerge from poverty and underdevelopment into prosperity and development.
“But what do you mean by transformation, it means industrialization, it means agricultural modernization, it means doing the things that require certain kinds of skills,” Prof Nnadozie said. “But if you keep training people in areas that cannot help you to achieve transformation, you are investing in unemployment, because they will graduate and have no jobs. And we keep wondering why a lot of graduates are wandering around without jobs.
“This is a major issue that has to be addressed. We at ACBF have at least drawn attention to this issue in a very significant way through our study and we have already started tackling the problem [by supporting universities like the Africa Institutions of Science and Technology in Abuja (Nigeria), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), and Arusha (Tanzania) that are shifting the focus of education to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)].”
The Executive Secretary said ACBF was trying to get more resources to support more of such universities and STEM graduates, because the gap of 2.4 million engineers that Africa needs to fill to implement the First 10-Year Plan of Agenda 2063 requires a herculean effort, and Africa cannot do this by continuing the current focus on education.
He cited the example of countries that depend on natural resources for their development and yet have almost no indigenous mining engineers trained and retained by the countries themselves.
“This makes no sense,” Prof Nnadozie explained. “So every geologist or mining engineer is brought from Europe or America or somewhere else. Yet we invest so much money in universities training people who may not help us achieve our development agenda. Therefore an overhaul of the system of education is urgently needed. The quality must also be maintained because there are some engineers who have engineering degrees but are probably not employable.”
Turning to the issue of capacity retention in Africa, the Executive Secretary said people pay attention to capacity building without often highlighting the twin issues of capacity retention and utilisation, which are equally critical.
“But we at ACBF are at the forefront already,” Prof Nnadozie said. “We have been hammering on the point that we need to look at the three things together, to make sure that capacity development strategies are not just simply training people but also the people we train are retained by the continent and fully utilised.”
“It makes no sense, for example, that a country can invest so much resources in training medical doctors for all of them to wind up in Europe. Africans cannot afford to subsidize Europe with the little resources they have.
“We must make sure that there is a comprehensive program in place to ensure that the investments made in education and training will yield high returns here in Africa. It doesn’t have to be in the particular country that does the training, but if the capacity is retained or employed in the continent, it is a win-win for everybody.”
He said the signature ceremony for ACBF’s status as an AU Specialized Agency for Capacity Building was a confirmation of the work the Foundation had done to anchor itself properly within the African development architecture and to put development back at the centre of the discussion.
“The challenges are significant so one organization alone cannot do it,” the Executive Secretary explained. “We believe that this Agreement that we have signed today, will lead to better things in terms of coordination and mobilizing resources for capacity building on the continent. We are getting the political leadership of the African Union to help us to become really effective.”
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ABOUT the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF)
The African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), is the African Union’s Specialized Agency for Capacity Development.
Having spearheaded and robustly coordinated capacity development programs worth over 700 million US dollars across 45 countries and 8 regional economic communities (RECs) in Africa since 1991, ACBF has gathered the requisite experience that makes it the go-to institution for expert knowledge and human resources to advise and support African countries, regional economic communities and institutions on decisive steps to take to develop the practical skills urgently required for the continent’s economic transformation.
Evidence from our cutting-edge work (constituting hundreds of knowledge publications) and the work of several partners show that Africa's development efforts are being hobbled by severe capacity deficits often in the form of shortage of critical skills, deficits in leadership, inhibiting mindsets and weak institutions. The continent’s practical skills shortage is acute in key areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Agriculture.
At ACBF, we will continue using our unmatched track record in managing financial facilities for development, our vast knowledge gathering experience thanks to the exceptional skills mix of our core staff as well as our strong strategic partnerships and networks to help countries and institutions identify their capacity needs, advise them on how to plug these capacity weaknesses and on where to find the knowledge and resources to develop the requisite capacity resources, effectively use them and retain them to achieve their short and long-term development objectives.
ACBF’s vision is an Africa capable of achieving its own development.
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