Fostering competitive young talents key for Africa’s economic

23May 2016
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Fostering competitive young talents key for Africa’s economic

According to the annual African Economic Outlook report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the African Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme,

Prosperous economy, building human capital and the welfare of the community are main concerns of governments in most developing countries.

which was released in May last year, Africa’s fitful and uneven economic growth expects to gain momentum in two years.

On average, the continent’s economies were expected to grow 4.5 percent in 2015 and 5 percent in 2016. While the trend indicates African economies will return to closely tracking emerging Asian ones as the world’s fastest-growing regions, progress is patchy and precarious, the report noted.Prosperous economy, building human capital and the welfare of the community are main concerns of governments in most developing countries.

Major changes that will impact the life of Africans in the coming two decades will be the economic development and investment in health care and education, and encouragement of the private sector. All of this together will maintain African’s progress on the right path toward development.

It is envisaged that African in the future will be a more influential society with education and health care available to majority of citizens and employment opportunities increasing, and all these will contribute toward the welfare of the African societies.

For all of the above to be realized, education sector is considered to be a priority for a number of African governments. However, radical changes need to be envisaged in our education systems to prepare our youth for knowledge-based economy.

Academic education is available in both the private and government sectors. Education alone is not enough to create job opportunities. This is because businesses and industries have become highly specialized and knowledge-based. We need private-public partnership in every industry be it energy, health care, transportation or otherwise.

During the 26th World Economic Forum in Africa, which was held from 11th to 13th May, 2016, in Kigali, Rwanda, it was argued that the next African economy will be based on talents, and not capital. This is clearly shown by a number of countries such as Rwanda which has risen from dark after 1994 genocide into a rising start within the region with prosperous economic achievement.

The secret behind this achievement is Rwanda Government’s commitment in investing on young people, who have fully participated in building the improved economy of their country. With a GDP growth rate hovering around 7.6 percent, one of the fastest growth rates in Sub-Saharan Africa, Rwanda has a proven track-record.

As the demography of the world changes sharply towards a younger workforce, one of the foremost challenges worldwide and more specifically in Africa, is attracting, preparing, engaging and retaining young talent. The continent has one of the best demographic dividends among the leading economies in the world.

In the process of fostering young talents, our education systems play a great role, in ensuring our children and youth acquire mastery of skills and knowledge required by job market.

However, availability of the ‘right talent’ is still a major challenge, not all graduates joining the workforce will come equipped with the right skills and work attitude. It is an unfortunate reality that only a few of the over many students graduating through our Education system every year are considered employable.

For a number of years, our national examinations are not about nurturing talents and innovations but the scramble for admission to public universities. Our current mode of teaching and examining styles doesn’t encourage our students to be more involved in technical activities. We need competence-based teaching and learning, and exams that encourage innovation in the secondary level.

The quality of education is also not clearly spelt out so that the curriculum delivery could focus on development of specific expected competences.

Our basic education has not been designed with a view of equipping the learners with relevant knowledge that emphasizes on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. We are still in the mode of teaching to get better grades and school ratings but we are not really into innovation. Teachers also lack a clue of what it’s all about.

If the country is going to be globally competitive, then our leverage as clearly stated in our vision needs to be knowledge based. We need to ensure the development of an individual’s potential in a holistic and integrated manner, while producing individuals who are intellectually, emotionally and physically balanced.

Klaus Schwab, the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, argues that as technology increasingly takes over knowledge-based work, the cognitive skills that are central to today’s education systems will remain important; but behavioural and non-cognitive skills necessary for collaboration, innovation and problem-solving will become essential as well.

Moreover, with education increasingly becoming a lifelong pursuit, businesses must re-think their role in providing for a competitive work force. Some companies have already grasped this and are investing in their employees’ continuous learning. Yet, most employers still expect to obtain pre-trained talent from schools and other companies.

Business will increasingly have to work with educators and governments to help education systems keep up with the needs of the labour market. Given rapid change in the skill sets required for many occupations, business must redirect investment to on-the-job training and lifelong learning, particularly as millennials enter the work force, seeking purpose and diversity of experience where their predecessors sought remuneration and stability.

Governments, too, have a role to play in creating an environment in which their citizens can reach their potential. Policy makers must use stronger metrics to assess human capital and re-examine investment in education, curriculum design, hiring and firing practices, women’s integration into the work force, retirement policies, immigration legislation and social-spending policies.

Regulatory support for entrepreneurship and small- and medium-size enterprises remains one of the most underused means of unleashing creativity, enhancing growth and generating employment.

In additional, governments should introduce regulations that enable their sustained growth, while looking for ways to leverage their technologies and entrepreneurial approaches to boost social support. Such policies include online education courses for the unemployed, digital workers’ insurance, virtual unionization and tax policies geared for the sharing economy.
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The writer is a specialist in educational planning, policy, economics and finance. He is reached through: [email protected] or +255754304181.