Harare/Addis Ababa, 31 Oct 2017 (ACBF) – If Africa must guarantee jobs for its 450 million or so school leavers by 2030, its States must urgently address the mismatch between educational qualifications and the needs of the job markets through massive investments in Critical Technical Skills (CTS) that would produce: railway engineers, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, quantity surveyors, construction project managers, infrastructure specialists, land surveyors, architects, electrical engineers, regional integration specialists, macro-economists/development planners and financial investment specialists, among others. This has been the clear message from the Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), Prof Emmanuel Nnadozie, to hundreds of delegates attending the ‘Africa Talks Jobs’ forum in Addis Ababa – Ethiopia from 30 October to 1 November 2017.
The Head of ACBF’s Secretariat reiterated this point during a plenary session on “Harnessing the demographic dividend – creating perspectives for youth in Africa through skills development and employment promotion” of the event, organized by EU and African Union partners to address the now worrying issue of how to make the continent’s young people employable after they live school. Africa accounts for the world’s youngest population, with almost 200 million persons on the continent aged between 15 and 24 years. A huge proportion of the continent’s population is under 65 years, meaning if it slowed down new births and capitalized on the productivity of this vibrant work force, there would be rapid growth and development. This would amount to what experts refer to as the Demographic Dividend.
But Africa is hardly enjoying such a demographic dividend given that youth unemployment is the continent’s number 1 challenge, Prof Nnadozie intimated. What Africa is witnessing at this stage is a “youth bulge, which if not urgently turned into a demographic dividend, it could become a demographic time bomb or demographic nightmare for the continent,” he lamented.
The vexing issue here is that “skills are in high demand in Africa, but their development is compromised by the Ivory Tower Syndrome, stemming from the disconnect between what educational institutions equips students with, and what the real economy needs,” he explained.
The statistics of adverse trends in education in critical technical skills for Africa’s school-goers are somber when one looks at what they currently study. The Head of ACBF’s Secretariat said 95% of African students study Social Science and Business and Law, while only 4% study Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction. Worse still, only 2% study Agriculture even though agriculture contributes 32% of the GDP of their own very continent.
As if these underlying problems of skills acquisition were not enough, Africa, he said, grapples with obstacles to growth and expansion of the labor market as seen in its current one-digit growth instead of a two-digit growth rate. It is compounded by the continent’s excessive dependence on primary commodity exports (which has continuously led to jobless growth) and a weak and underdeveloped private sector.
“Youth unemployment is structural and therefore requires structural solution,” proffered, while calling to mind opportunities in sectors that are within reach for the continent. These are in consumer products industries, including light manufacturing; the construction sector, especially infrastructure development; the ICTs sector and the green jobs sector (which is already witnessing promising take-off in South Africa).
Achieving a skills revolution
Prof Nnadozie said a 'Skills Revolution' program which targets the above CTS learning areas should also entail that States develop serious reform of their educational systems, invest heavily in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as well as in all the other critical technical skills areas; revamp Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) with proper levels of apprenticeship; mobilize human and financial capital from Africa’s diaspora in support of the youths back on the continent; convene regular tripartite education dialogue between policymakers, private sector and training institutions; and adopt good strategies on capacity building, capacity retention, capacity harmonization, and capacity utilization.
How ACBF is contributing to the skills revolution
ACBF has already spearheaded concrete initiatives to pace-set the skills revolution it preaches for Africa. These include: a) the identification of critical technical skills needed to implement the first 10 year-plan of Agenda 2063, b) the establishment of centers of excellence in science and technology in some African countries, c) support to “Training for Employment & Entrepreneurship (T4EE)” in Malawi to make graduates more prepared for the workplace, and equip them with entrepreneurship skills, d) support to the “Youth Trade” project in Nigeria which adopted a unique approach in improving youth entrepreneurship by starting where most projects and programs, and many others.
The Foundation will continue to coordinate capacity development interventions for youth employment and entrepreneurship in Africa; support countries in crafting national policies, including the conduct of comprehensive assessments of the needs of the public and private sectors, as well as those of higher education institutions; support Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), entrepreneur-programs for students and academic staff; and share its knowledge on strategic issues, best practices and lessons learnt.
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ABOUT the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF)
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.
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