Technical and vocational education would spur economic growth and transformation

By Percis Ofori

Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 200 million people aged between 15 and 24. This figure is likely to double by 2050 according to the 2012 World Economic Outlook. Ideally, this massive workforce should generate economic growth and development. The increased supply of labour intensive jobs coupled with the demand for goods and services could spur growth. This is however not the case. Africa is currently plagued by rising graduate youth unemployment as a result of the high number of new entrants into the labour market, which does not correspond with the number of jobs created annually. This problem could be attributed to its flawed educational structures, especially the poor linkage between educational systems and the reality on the job market. The educational system emphasises theoretical education devoid of practical skills and training needed for the job market, leading to limited job creation.

The solution to the problem is Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) at secondary and tertiary levels. TVET is designed to prepare trainees for a specific profession. It increases the chances of trainees gaining employment quickly, or setting up their own businesses, creating a vibrant labour market and contributing to economic growth. TVET also has the potential of providing the much needed skills in the huge informal economy in Africa, which accounts for about 72% of non-agricultural economy. Furthermore, investment in TVET could create the much needed boom in manufacturing and agro-processing industries in agriculture and other informal sectors.

Moreover, a well-functioning TVET system has the ability to train and absorb a sizeable workforce to add value to primary products and natural resources in the agricultural sector, thereby starting an industrial revolution in Africa. Farm machinery and implements could also be made by skilled labour from TVET, resulting in an improved agriculture. TVET systems could churn out competent technicians and artisans required in the automobile, road and building construction and sanitation industries. More industries mean an increase in government revenue through taxation and exports.

It’s about time African governments allocated adequate resources and formulated policies aimed at developing and revamping TVET since it is the key to industrialization, wealth creation and poverty reduction. The desire for economic transformation in Africa must therefore highlight TVET as a driver of human capital development.

Percis Ofori is the Communications Coordinator at ACET.

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