Skills and Education for the future: A Youth-Led Intergenerational Dialogue

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One-fifth of the global population under the age of 25 now resides in rapidly growing Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the world’s youngest region. The region’s working-age population is expected to reach 600 million in 2030, with a youth share of 37 percent—larger than that of China. With the right education and training, coupled with well-defined national development strategies and employment policies, Africa’s large and fast-growing youth population could be a great asset for development and provide a comparative advantage in world markets. However, according to the Human Capital Index (2020), Sub-Saharan Africa currently lags behind the rest of the world due to underinvestment in human capital. Although school enrollments have been increasing over time, enrollments in secondary and tertiary remain very low.

Digital transformation is changing the future of work. The presence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) encompasses artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, smart factories, and others would have significant implications for the nature and growth of jobs in Africa. These new technologies lead to new business models, create remote or gig economy employment, and provide more jobs within the technology sector (ACET, 2018a). At the same time, these technologies are putting some jobs under threat as the presence of machines and robots continues to grow, with middle-income jobs most at risk. The pace at which economies can adapt to the changing technological innovations will determine the impacts of automation. Young people in Africa are inadequately prepared for various workplace roles in 4IR. African countries underutilize their human capital potential and are ill-equipped for the changing nature of work and the impact of 4IR. The ability of African countries to adapt depends heavily on how quickly the skills of young people can be improved, mainly through strengthening education and skills training systems.

The Intergenerational Dialogue

The intergenerational dialogue intends to create a platform for conversation between different generations of young people to discuss skill acquisition and employment, as well as to seek their viewpoints on optimizing young people’s potential to capitalize on the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). This dialogue will be under the theme “Skills and Education for the Future.”

The dialogue will center on how future skills and education might provide productive employment for young Africans while also creating an enabling environment for young Africans to innovate by utilizing digital technologies to generate jobs, enhance productivity, and alleviate poverty. The discussion will draw on recent ACET research, including the African Transformation Report (2021) and a six-country study that looked at improving education and learning systems to deliver a 4IR-ready workforce.

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