Cape Town – Africa should improve the quality of basic education to ensure a skilled workforce and create jobs to drive economic transformation on the continent, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said recently.
The commission’s acting director of the gender, poverty, and social policy division, Sweta Saxena, said creating suitable jobs for the youth was one of the biggest challenges facing policymakers in Africa.
Speaking at the opening session of the expert group meeting of the social policy section, Saxena cited a lack of adequate skills among the youth in Africa as a reason for joblessness.
Data shows that nearly a quarter of children enrolled at primary level drop out while less than 50% of boys and girls complete lower secondary education, compared to about 80% in South Asia and Latin America.
The tertiary level enrolment rate in Africa stands at less than 10%.
The two-day meeting drew technical experts from 16 countries’ governments, academia, and think tanks, as well as the United Nations, who reviewed the key findings of the draft report, Jobs in Africa or Jobs for Africans.
Creating a skilled workforce required improvements in access to and quality of basic education.
“The quality of education is also very low and so, as a result, young people in Africa enter the formal labour market with few employable skills,” said Saxena, adding that nearly 90% of the youth started work in informal employment and almost a quarter of businesses named lack of skilled workers as a constraint.
Many trained people were unemployed and working in areas unrelated to their training or emigrating to other countries.
Loss of skills was worrisome for African countries that already suffered from low human capital.
“As tertiary and professional education are financed from severely limited public education budgets, in effect poor African countries implicitly subsidise rich countries through migration of highly skilled labour,” said Saxena.
The commission conducts interdisciplinary research and analysis of key challenges facing member states and Africa as a whole and promotes peer learning and development. It provides policy advice and support to member states.
(Edited by Mlungisi Zondi)