Why is developing technical and vocational skills critical for young Africans?

Today we celebrate World Youth Skills Day

73 million young people in Africa are jobless. On the occasion of World Youth Skills Day, let’s renew the commitment to increase investment in youth empowerment.

A young woman learns to sew in the vocational school of Kiryandongo refugee settlement. Uganda. Credit: GPE/Henry Bongyereirwe

This is the sixth blog post published in 2018 as part of the collaborative effort launched in 2017 between the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

World Youth Skills Day represents an opportunity to renew the commitment to increase investment in youth empowerment. Offering vocational training to youth—particularly to girls and young women—provides them with the means to acquire work experience and find decent jobs to help improve their prospects.

73 million young people in search of a brighter future

Today, over 73 million young people in Africa are jobless, meaning that a young person is three times more likely to be unemployed than an adult.

Unemployment can only successfully be conquered through comprehensive implementation of the recommendations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25)—which advocate providing an ever increasing number of young people with the skills needed to access the job market, obtain a decent job, and cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit.

The mission of the Inter-Country Quality Node on Technical and Vocational Skills Development

Against this backdrop, the Inter-Country Quality Node on Technical and Vocational Skills Development (ICQN/TVSD) fulfills the overall objective of serving as a catalyst for innovative policies and practices in the area of education and training in Africa.

Technical and vocational skills development was one of the overarching themes of the ADEA Triennale 2012 with respect to determining which knowledge, skills, and qualifications were critical for sustainable development in Africa.

This theme aimed in particular to trigger a paradigm shift on the African continent by taking into account the entire sphere of TVSD, including non-formal and informal vocational training mechanisms, within the framework of this sustainable development. The goal, through this paradigm shift, was to incorporate micro- and small enterprises from the rural and urban informal sector as sustainable development actors given that they constitute the bulk of the economic fabric of Africa and employ the vast majority of young people in many countries, essentially enhancing their professionalism through on-the-job experience.

Youth employment: one of Africa’s greatest challenges and risks

This focus on TVSD in 2012 aimed to tackle the issue of youth skills and employment head on as it is simultaneously one of the greatest challenges and one of the biggest risks facing Africa:

  • Training and integrating the maximum number of young people into the job market is a challenge that Africa must confront as the continent cannot achieve sustainable development without the full and complete employment of its youth;
  • Failing to train and integrate the maximum number of young people constitutes a major risk for the continent because, as noted in Technical Report No. 15 of March 2016 published by the Agence Française de développement (AFD), “the integration of young people and their contribution to sustainable economic and social development…have become a key security issue.”
The dynamics of exclusion in play, particularly in the Sahelian countries, are partly—if not primarily—responsible for the climate of violence and radicalization.

Youth education and inclusion for guaranteed success

The preeminent role played by TVSD in enhancing the professionalism of young people and integrating them as effectively as possible into economic and social life inspired the work done by the ICQN/TVSD since its establishment in 2010.

Over the past three years, the ICQN/TVSD has successfully organized and conducted a conference of ministers in 2015 in Kigali, Rwanda, on the subject of training trainers and entrepreneurs and two seminars of experts, first in 2016 in Abidjan on the Education-Training Continuum and then in 2017, also in the capital of Côte d’Ivoire, on Further Development of the Education-Training Continuum.

The ADEA Quality Node plays a strategic role for the African continent, not only with respect to its main theme, but also by virtue of the number of member countries that participate in it, namely, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Niger, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, and Tunisia.

All these countries have been able to appreciate the importance of investing in policies on young people’s skills and on their inclusion in the job market, largely owing to the work of the ICQN/TVSD.

To this end, one can safely say that the most important lesson to be learned is that young people are the future of each country, and it is therefore critical to place education at the heart of all priorities associated with youth as it remains the key to unlocking their potential!