The economic outlook for the African continent is promising. As the continent is now emerging from decades of economic woes and stagnation, Africa today houses seven of the then most rapidly growing economies in the world. Hopefully, this will also positively affect the education outlook in Africa.
The continent has progressed socio-economically considerably, and now is home to a growing and vibrant middle class and technological advancement is growing at a rapid pace.
Africa also is the most youthful continent in the world as currently, almost half of the continent’s population is younger than 15 years of age. The continent’s young people will be Africa’s future leaders. They are going to be the driving force to generate considerable and sustainable growth across Africa.
Public investments in training and education are key to build a skilled and well-educated workforce and to stimulate innovation. With that in mind, the Africa-America Institute (AAI) organizes the annual ‘State of Education in Africa Conference’ with as general goals to communicate solution-driven education policies with government representatives, administrators, educators, philanthropists and other parties interested in dealing with various opportunities and challenges in Africa.
The conference is a platform for conversation about education as one of the main components for economic development and growth on the continent, and it intends to strengthen AAI’s visibility, power, and leadership role to identify obstacles and openings to improve education in general across Africa.
Educators from Africa and other parts of the world visit the convention to assess and talk about the problems and progress of primary, secondary, technical-vocational, and tertiary education across Africa. Several leading thinkers and educators addressed the need for better and expanding education opportunities and to strengthen the capacity of educational institutions all over the continent.
The conference is a starting point for numerous discussions about the ‘State of Education on the African Continent’, and is drawing attention to key areas that must be improved. The conference aims to inspire collective initiatives and action to enhance education systems across the African continent.
Early Childhood Education
In the early years are crucial for a child’s socio-emotional development. Very often, early childhood years determine if a child succeeds at school, get a decent job, earn a proper income, and be able to influence future generations.
In sub-Saharan Africa, there are only 7 countries that achieve the 80 percent enrollment target in early childhood or pre-primary education.
Basic or Primary Education
Since the year 2000, enrollment in primary or basic education across Africa has been steadily progressing. In that year, the United Nations set its ‘Millennium Development Goals Program (MDG), to reduce extreme poverty across the world, and quite a few African countries agreed to work towards achieving the program’s goals on primary education.
The African continent has seen a dramatic increase in enrollment numbers in primary education, though the capacity and quality of facilities, the number of qualified teachers, and the availability of enough and good study materials haven’t kept pace.
Over the past decade, the enrollment number in primary schools went from 62 million to more than 150 million.
The availability of access to secondary education in Africa is still highly critical, and we know that secondary education is key for economic development and getting students all set for higher education.
Secondary education also leads to a workforce that’s well-skilled and equipped to meet the growing demand of any nation to compete in a globalizing economy.
African governments increasingly recognize the necessity to invest in the expansion and quality of secondary education, as secondary schools across the continent can accommodate just about one-third of all qualifying applicants.
Vocational and Technical Education
Technical and vocational education is crucial for the development of the workforce in upcoming economies, and on technical and vocational education & training (TVET).
This will enhance Africa’s competitiveness in the world, and create better and decently-paying employment opportunities. A skilled and well-educated workforce is also essential for investors, but this sort of training and education wasn’t so much of a priority in African countries.
In 2015, technical and vocational education accounted for merely six percent of the total secondary education enrollment.
A good higher education system will result in benefits not only for young Africans but for society as a whole as well. This will result in better employment prospects, better living conditions, as well as greater economic development and growth.
Investing in higher education is paying off, and we see that in Africa, returns to investments when it comes to higher education, are more than 20 percent, higher than anywhere else in the world.
The world’s economy is becoming more and more technological, so the African school curricula are required to evolve accordingly and offer the best training and education for jobs in tomorrow’s workforce.
We still see a crucial mismatch between the level of knowledge and skills of the African workers and what employers expect and require from today’s workforce.