Working With New Partners to Build Skills in Africa


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While global economic growth has been sluggish in recent years, Africa has been growing. We’ve seen a resurgence of traditional sectors such as agriculture and the extractive industries as well as promising new ones such as ICT. Not surprisingly, these booming sectors need highly skilled technicians, engineers, medical workers, agricultural scientists and researchers. Yet large numbers of African graduates remain unemployed as their skills are often not in line with industry requirements. 

African countries are keen to bridge this “skills” gap, and new partner countries such as China, India, Brazil and Korea are willing to help. We recently brought together ministers from nine African countries and partner representatives in Addis Ababa to explore a potential partnership on skills development in applied science, engineering and technology, and I am delighted to report that we’ve made a lot of progress. Following early interest expressed during consultations with these countries, I think there was a strong commitment from all sides to align various ongoing and future skills development activities according to the individual priorities of each African economy. To my mind, this is very important, not least because more people living in African countries need to benefit more from widespread economic growth across the continent, and to possess the right skills to take advantage of new employment opportunities.
At the workshop, over 90 participants from Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan and Tanzania; as well as the four partner countries— brainstormed about ways in which their shared knowledge and experience can help Africa upgrade skills. They came from governments, academia, and, of course, the private sector. As foreign direct investment increases from new partners into African economies, it is a “win-win” situation for both if the right skills can be rapidly developed locally. The proposed PASET partnership could, with support from the World Bank Group, provide a strong framework for this collaboration on skills that can be developed along a continuum from vocational training to professional and scientific training.   
This short video features ministers and other participants at the Addis Ababa meeting, expressing their views ad expectations regarding what countries need and what partners can offer. It gives you a flavor of the many conversations that were made possible during the three-day workshop. I was very encouraged by the fact that, at the end of our time in Addis Ababa, all African countries presented action plans with concrete ideas about next steps. This workshop was just the beginning of what I hope will be a very useful effort. We are exploring follow-up events to bring together private sector representatives from partner countries, ministries of finance and sector ministries involved in skills development. We will also bring together workshop participants in about a year’s time to review progress and to exchange implementation experience.



Sajitha Bashir

Sector Manager, Education, Eastern & Southern Africa

Join the Conversation

Roseline Shelstad
December 04, 2013

Being originally from Liberia, my concern on a partnership like this is - how would the new skills developed be utilize immediately? Although Liberia has a broken educational system, the country continues to graduate a record number of individuals receiving undergraduate, graduate and legal degrees; most of these graduates are unemployed, not due to lack of skills, but jobs creation ability. Hence, talk of skills development in Liberia should be approached on a project by project basis; for example, training the administrative division of each ministry to better manage and to make concerted effort to improve the quality of key public services. However, if skills development is going to be focused on the general public, there should be a plan for immediate placement. No amount of training sessions is going to affect an economy if it's not being used. Also, an ethics course needs to be added to all professional development training in Liberia - this might help individuals to consider building cohesion and shared prosperity - ultimately, leading to a middle income country. My thoughts and frustration with Liberians in the diaspora and in Liberia are:
* we lack the ability to think and be creative
* we spend most of our productive time duplicating, instead of building
* we urgently need wealth building education (investment and saving training)
* we need to appreciate learning, and see it as a step to long-term socioeconomic success
* we need to fully understand entrepreneurship to develop businesses
* we need to be realistic about our skills and experiences