Africa is the most youthful continent in the world with more than 200 million youth aged 15 to 24, and creating productive employment options for all these young people is essential for the future of the continent.
A well-educated and skilled workforce is essential to many investors and employers, and we’ve seen that several employers across the African continent have been highly critical of the fact that there’s an absolute lack of basic and technical education and the skills of graduates.
Just like in the rest of the world, a robust education system is key for economic development and growth in nations across the continent.
The basic quality of primary, secondary, technical, vocational, higher, and post-graduate education is generally measured by workers’ performance on the labor market, and this means that the education system across Africa need to be strengthened to be able to absorb the millions of young people in Africa into the regional, national, or global workforce.
The working age population in Africa (15 to 64 year old’s) is continuing to grow rapidly, and by the year 2040, the African workforce is estimated to be over one billion.
The education system in Africa has come to a crossroad, and throughout history, we’ve never seen more students enrolled in schools across Africa. As such, that’s good news, but the education infrastructure, available study materials, and the number of well-trained and qualified teachers have in no way kept pace with the rapidly growing demand.
Increased student numbers have outpaced education funding by far, resulting in a drastic overuse of available facilities, extreme shortage of instructional supplies, and poorly equipped libraries across Africa.
But while we see many more students in the classrooms, but there’s a major and much deeper learning crisis going on: though they’re attending school, many students do not receive basic training at school, and many students are actually are not better off in school the children who are not going to school at all. This means that the quality of the education system in Africa is dangerously poor, and we can see more and more private institutions stepping in to fill these gaps.
In 2015, the average student-teacher ratio in Africa’s primary schools was 40:1, and this statistic hasn’t changed in almost twenty years. We all know that the quality of the education system in a country strongly predicts its economic growth capacity, and African nations have a better chance to benefit not only economically, but also in a broader sense, if their workforce is better educated and have well-rounded skills and knowledge so they are able to compete in today’s knowledge-driven global economy.
In Africa, we see that the increase in the number and quality of private schools, though as such not a negative development and a viable alternative, has come from terribly failing public education systems across the continent. Investing in public education is crucial for building a well-trained and highly skilled workforce and to grow Africa’s progress and prosperity.
Because they recognized the correlation between socio-economic development and the quality of their educational systems, several sub-Saharan countries have finally decided to gradually increase their public spending for educational purposes by over 6 percent annually, and in general we can see that African countries are devoting larger and substantial portions of their government budgets to their education sectors, despite often relatively modest GDP’s and many other developmental issues.
Often we see, though, that the increase in government spending on education is by far not enough to reach essential education levels and to provide decent education opportunities for their young people. Despite all these problems we also are convinced a change for the better will arise as the African countries, on average, are allocating the largest portion of their governments’ expenditure to their education systems (some 18.5 percent)