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Bridging the Skills Gap. Empowering Africa’s Workforce: Wadhwani Foundation’s Vision for Skill Development in Africa

In today’s dynamic global job market, the necessity of upskilling and reskilling has transcended local boundaries, emerging as a critical global imperative. As we sail into the era of Industry 4.0, the global workforce is undergoing significant transformations marked by a shift towards future-ready and sectoral skills. This transformation, driven by technological advancements such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI), is creating a hybrid work model that is reshaping the workplace landscape.

Simultaneously, employers are increasingly putting more emphasis on soft skills such as effective communication, adaptability to change, customer-centricity, professionalism, and innovation, amongst others. These essential qualities, collectively termed ’employability skills’ define a candidate’s attractiveness in the competitive job landscape.

However, the lack of uniformity in formal vocational education is contributing to the global challenge of skills mismatch. The global challenges in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) skills revolve around an inadequate emphasis on cognitive, digital, and entrepreneurship skills, coupled with the perception of TVET as a secondary educational track.

This hinders effective learning, intensifies youth unemployment, and highlights the need for a shift in focus to foster a globally competitive workforce.

Navigating these challenges is therefore paramount, with a focus on pivotal African economies like Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, and Kenya.

Africa’s Demographic Resurgence

Profound demographic transformations are sweeping across the African continent, heralding a new era of innovation, growth, and unparalleled potential. The world’s oldest inhabited continent is paradoxically the youngest today, with 40% of its population under the age of 15.

Looking ahead to 2050, a staggering 25% of the planet’s projected population will be African. This means, one in four people on this planet will be from Africa, two-thirds of whom will be under 30. This demographic surge not only commands attention but presents challenges and opportunities of unprecedented scale.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. Take Nigeria, for instance, where three-quarters of the population are employed. Despite these high employment rates, there exists an urgent need for comprehensive skilling initiatives. This need is further emphasized by the country’s substantial investment in digital infrastructure, with 90 percent having access to broadband internet, and 75 percent of the population owning cell phones.

Contrasting Scenario Across the African Landscape 

It is important to note that the story isn’t the same across Africa. Internet penetration in the continent stood at just 28.2% in 2019, compared to a global average of 53.6%. According to recent reports, the average score for the degree of digitization in Africa was just 29%, with most African countries scoring below the global average particularly on the degree of digitization.

Some countries, however, are making strides in this area. Kenya, for instance, is combining mandatory electronic tax payment and e-IDs to improve revenue collection and efficiency and reduce taxpayers’ compliance costs. The VAT Digital Toolkit for Africa, developed by the OECD, is another initiative aimed at supporting tax authorities with the design and implementation of digital solutions.

Therefore, skill development and e-learning are crucial for preparing the workforce for this digital future. For instance, understanding and navigating digital systems is a necessary skill in the job market today.

Current State of TVET Education in Africa

In the face of these demographic shifts, African countries grapple with the monumental task of creating relevant education and employment opportunities for their burgeoning youth population. However, a critical evaluation of the current state of TVET education in Africa reveals a complex scenario. 

Job demand outpaces growth in opportunities, particularly in technical and vocational fields where the potential of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) remains underleveraged. Traditional classroom teaching methods, still prevalent in many African nations, are proving inadequate in the face of technological advancements that reshape global employment trends.

A report from the University World News indicates that African TVET institutes struggle with outdated curriculum standards and a scarcity of resources to acquire modern training facilities. Despite being a proven path for increasing youth employment, TVET suffers from a poor image, partly attributed to outdated teaching methods and resources.

Even the enrolment rates and outcomes present a mixed picture, indicating the need for concerted efforts to boost TVET education across the continent. This underscores the imperative of modernizing and strengthening TVET in Africa for inclusive growth and sustainable development, aligning with recommendations from the International Labor Organization.

There have been efforts to improve this scenario. For instance, Tanzania has set ambitious targets to triple its annual TVET enrolment to 1.5 million trainees by 2030. This move signifies the country’s commitment to enhancing vocational skills among its young population, thereby improving their employability and contribution to the economy.

On the other hand, South Africa presents a contrasting scenario. The country’s share of upper secondary students enrolled in VET stands at a mere 2% among 15–19-year-olds, is significantly lower than the OECD average of 37%2. However, this figure improves to 27% among 20–24-year-olds, indicating a delayed entry into vocational training.

To harness the potential of TVET in Africa, the African Union has developed a Continental TVET Strategy. Despite these efforts, Africa still grapples with high rates of education exclusion, particularly in sub-Saharan regions, and a lot remains to be done.

The Potential of E-Learning

In this scenario, e-learning emerges as a beacon of hope. By democratizing access to education and skills training, e-learning can bridge the gap between industry needs and academic training. It allows for flexible learning, tailored to the learner’s pace and schedule, thereby overcoming geographical and socio-economic barriers.

However, to leverage this potential, a robust digital infrastructure is crucial. While countries like Nigeria are making substantial strides in this area, the digital divide within Africa remains a significant concern. Bridging this divide will not only enable effective implementation of e-learning initiatives but also prepare the African workforce for a digital future.

Wadhwani Foundation & Africa

The global non-profit recognizes this shift and is committed to aligning its programs with these evolving trends, ensuring that individuals are equipped with the skills demanded by the contemporary job market. The foundation has remained committed on equipping African youth with relevant skills and knowledge for some time now.

Wadhwani Foundation embarked on its African journey in 2013, establishing a footprint across East Africa (Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania), South Africa (Namibia, Botswana and South Africa) and West Africa (Nigeria and Ghana).

Over the years, the foundation has played a pivotal role in workforce development and job readiness in Africa, collaborating with over 60 academic and non-academic institutions, including notable partnerships with CSIR, SEDA, Innovation Hub, and Sekhukhune Incubator.

That’s not all! They have been supporting entrepreneurship in Africa since 2018. The aim was to transform the ecosystem for new entrepreneurs through supporting entrepreneurship education and developing skills crucial for Uganda’s economic growth.

In light of the digital advancements in African economies, the Foundation has also partnered with Rwanda Polytechnic in the past to provide soft skills training for students. Such initiatives are crucial in bridging the gap between formal education and industry demands, thereby enabling the youth to successfully navigate the job market.

Wadhwani Foundation’s Commitment to Skill Development:

Under the leadership of its President & CEO, Dr. Ajay Kela, Wadhwani Foundation remains committed to driving skill development in Africa. The aim is to transform the ecosystem for job seekers and entrepreneurs by emphasizing entrepreneurship education and developing crucial employability skills necessary for economic growth.

Mission 2027

The mission of the Wadhwani Foundation is to drive job growth in emerging economies and enable millions to earn a family-sustaining wage and lead a dignified life. Founded in 2001, the Foundation’s AI-copilot powered programs are tailored to address the evolving needs of the workforce in emerging economies. From skill development initiatives to empowering startups, the Foundation’s offerings span a wide spectrum, aiming to unlock the full potential of individuals and businesses. Through its strategic partnerships with academic, industry, government and other players the Foundation endeavors to secure family-wage employment for 3 million people and enhance employability of 10 million vulnerable people by 2027.

And the best part – all services are offered at zero cost to the beneficiaries. The Foundation takes no external funding and is solely funded by the philanthropy of its Founder and Chairman, Padmashri Dr. Romesh Wadhwani, a well-known Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur himself, who has committed to donating 80% of his wealth to the Foundation.

Looking Ahead

As we navigate the evolving landscape of work in Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, and Kenya, collaboration and innovation become key. The task at hand is undeniably challenging given the magnitude of the demographic surge and the complexity of the digital divide. However, with strategic partnerships, sustained effort, and a keen focus on skill development, there is immense potential to transform the future of Africa.

Leveraging the power of e-learning can equip Africa’s youthful population with the skills required to navigate the future job market, fostering a globally competitive workforce. In doing so, we can leverage the demographic resurgence to drive innovation and growth, transforming challenges into opportunities for a prosperous future. Wadhwani Foundation’s initiatives, aligned with global insights, pave the way for skill development, job creation, and inclusivity. Learn more about the Foundation

Source: ELA News Portal

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