The acquisition of employment skills as a key driver for economic development and growth is now a well acknowledged fact. In addition, among other factors, it is said that the availability of a skilled workforce is a major pull factor for foreign direct investment.
It is in recognition of the above, and also the fact that annually, about 10-11 million youth enter the job market, but only 3 million formal jobs are created every year in Africa, that the African Union developed a Continental Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) Strategy. In the strategy, TVET is recognised as the most practical avenue for acquiring readily employable skills for the world of work.
At the Leadership Dialogue for Skills and Employment that was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, hosted by AUDA-NEPAD and its partners on June 19-21 2019, deliberations centred on making TVET systems work for employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities for the next generation of African Youth. Several countries were represented at the dialogue by mostly Permanent Secretaries (Director Generals) in government ministries. The following is what some of them had to say:
The focus for Cameroon, as expressed by Mr Justin Kouekam, Secretary General at the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training, is also now on TVET. “The Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training should work more with the private sector, in ascertaining what they need and the specific areas in which to train young people,” Mr Kouekam says.
The representatives from Benin, led by Mr Innocent Togla, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries highlighted the fact that the country’s medium and long term actions include more research on curriculum development and raising the standard of trainees and trainers.
Lessons learnt from the Leadership Dialogue by Ghana include the fact that TVET curricula need to be more robust and responsive. As mentioned by Prof. Kwesi Yanka, Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, critical area of focus for the country is on the capacity of TVET teachers and trainers that should be built, as well as augmentation of entrepreneurship in TVET. While opportunities in Ghana exist in an industrialisation drive in the food security and the job creation drive, there is also need to engage industry players from the onset. Ghana’s long term plans include the creation of a TVET Centre of Excellence and integration of the 4th Industry Revolution into TVET curriculum.
Key actions to be taken by Kenya include carrying out bench making activities, developing guidelines for continuous professional development, review of the TVET Act, enhancing TVET research, developing labour market information systems and developing TVET data management information management systems.
As for Rwanda, the use of evidence is deemed as crucial in planning and decision making, as well as Monitoring and Evaluation and Knowledge Management. It is also acknowledged that opportunities exist in the ever-growing youth population, private sector engagement and new technologies. The creation of a sustainable financing framework in the long term is also deemed critical.
What then, are the priority areas for AUDA-NEPAD support to African Union Member States?
For a start, Tunisia sees AUDA-NEPAD is an opportunity for catalysing exchange of experiences between countries. The Agency provides a good platform for the sharing of resources, teaching tools and technologies to be put in place through the various projects run by the Skills Initiative for Africa.
Mrs Estherine Fotabong, Director of Programme Implementation and Coordination, AUDA-NEPAD, highlighted the fact that Africa has developed a substantive number of strategic documents, and that the time has come for efficient implementation.
Ms Fati N’zi Hassane, AUDA-NEPAD’s Skills and Employment for Youth Programme Head, recalled the mandate of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), and stressed the facte that AUDA-NEPAD should be seen by the AU Member State as the primary partner to design and implement the continental response to unemployment and underemployment.
After two and a half days of extensive peer exchange and discussions with AUDA-NEPAD, the representatives of AU Member States puts emphasis on the following as a crucial start towards rendering further support to African countries:
- Supporting African Union Member States with guidelines for TVET policies and systems, continuous professional development of TVET practitioners; initiation and support of research on TVET; stakeholder fora for sharing lessons, and labour market information systems and standards identification to improve policy formulation on TVET;
- Supporting African Union Member States to carry out benchmarking activities on TVET within and between countries to improve the data and statistics collection systems, develop TVET baselines and monitoring and evaluation systems, and carry out tracer studies on TVET interventions;
- Supporting the creation of Regional TVET Centres of Excellence and TVET student mobility schemes to promote entrepreneurship, research on TVET; peer learning, good practices, knowledge exchange, and capacity building on the continent;
- Expanding the Skills Initiative for Africa Financing Mechanism to all 55 Member States and to Public Investments. More generally, this will include setting up a mechanism for mobilisation of financial resources and trust funds for TVET to foster South-South cooperation for peer learning and the transfer of skills, capacities and expertise among African countries.
- Facilitating the setting up of Funds, Guarantee Mechanisms, and any relevant financial instrument in support to entrepreneurship and self-employment initiatives of TVET graduates.
Most importantly, brought to the fore during the Leadership Dialogue, was consensus on the need for home-grown solutions and evidence-based policies to address Africa’s unemployment challenges, with political will as key to providing conducive environment for job creation, employment and skills for Africa’s youth and women. The mutualisation of efforts is also recognised, particularly with the private sector to maximise resources; integrate entrepreneurial training; train teachers for quality education; enhance technical expertise, and technology. Mutualisation is also seen as necessary for orienting TVET policies and programmes towards bringing more tangible benefits to the Continent.