A positive call was made by the Vice President, Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal on the need for universities and the business community to establish strong partnership in order to build knowledge-based economies in the East African partner states.
He was addressing the 1st East African Higher Education Forum which has been organized by Inter University Council of East Africa (IUCEA) and the East African Business Council to look into how higher learning institutions and the private sector can work more closely together to make a significant and complementary contribution to the region’s socio-economic development.
The call is timely, for the focus of the East African Community member states is on harmonising areas that will contribute more to the region, such as ensuring that the labour market is fed with standardised skills, thus allowing for free movement of labour across the region.
There is a valid concern that some of the higher education institutions in the region are not producing the skills that industry requires to advance the region’s economy.
Prof Mayunga Nkunya, who is the executive secretary of the IUCEA has challenged higher learning institutions to work more closely with the private sector in a bid to produce graduates who can be easily absorbed by regional industrial labour market.
He points out: “Universities are producing graduates who cannot compete in the labour market, because the knowledge and skills they obtained do not match with the need of industrialists.”
It is true that at the moment more school leavers and college graduates are finding themselves shut out of jobs they had looked forward to after completing their studies.
As Dr Bilal stressed:“There is no way the region can develop, without having a strong university-industry partnership.”
The partnership must indeed permeate all areas of endeavour to bring the peoples of the region closer together in equity and help to expedite the process of regional integration.
We hope that the discussions that IUCEA and the East African Business Council are promoting, including inputs from experiences outside the region, will set in motion a process, that will hasten the pace of change for the better in the region.
Many of us do still remember the close working relationships that institttutions of learning then cultivated with various public and private institutions in a bid to mould students to meet needs of the workplace.
That workplace now is regional and global, meaning the skills that the institutions have to impart must meet the needs of the workplace, not only in Tanzania, but the region and the global place.
Obviously the school and college environment has undergone a lot of change, just as has the workplace, all due to the technological revolutions going on around us.
This situation more than any other validates the call by the Vice President for the promotion and protection of cultural diversity within our communities, in democratisation of the society and promotion and supporting trade in the region, all of which are critical factors for the achievement of regional integration.