African youth lack the skills to thrive in the future world of work: Labor Market Information Systems offer a solution

November 2, 2022
The Sub-Saharan African working-age population is expected to reach 600 million in 2030. By 2050, there could be as many as 2.5 billion Africans. Many of these young Africans are struggling in the world of work of today, and schools are not equipping the next generation with the right skills for the world of work of tomorrow. Robust labor market information systems (LMIS) that can predict job market trends can significantly improve labor market efficiency and allow secondary education systems to align their curricula with labor demands. However, few countries have taken advantage of the opportunity.

This is one of the conclusions from the multi-country study ‘Strengthening education and learning systems to deliver a 4IR-ready workforce’. Researchers conducted surveys and interviews with stakeholders in Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Niger, Rwanda, and Uganda to determine how education and training outcomes are aligned with labor market demands.

Three key findings on access to secondary education
  1. African education systems do not prepare students for the skills required in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)—encompassing the rapid evolution of robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and additive manufacturing technology, and the internet-of-things—is fundamentally disrupting manufacturing technology, with significant implications for the nature and growth of jobs in Africa. Researchers found that graduates lacked exactly the kind of technical, cognitive, and soft skills that will increasingly be in demand. Almost half of employers across the six countries said graduates lack technical skills, and about a quarter said graduates required additional training in ICT.

  1. Labor market information systems can map specific skills shortages and predict future labor markets needs, but countries are not taking full advantage

A number of countries have created skills databases and job portals, but their reach tends to be limited and information is not shared widely. In Rwanda, the Rwanda Development Board has created a skills database, but this only tracks the skillsets of Rwandan students studying abroad. The country also has a number of initiatives that use labor analytics and forecasting to bridge the gap between labor demand and supply, but this initiative does not fully integrate secondary school curriculum development. While there are various initiatives that support information flow in Côte d’Ivoire, there is no formal LMIS. Results from labor market surveys are mainly used to tailor internship programs.

  1. LMIS tend to exclude the informal and self-employed sectors

While many countries have some form of LMIS, often these systems are only able to capture formal sector employment. The Ethiopian job portal Kora which helps job applicants access vacancies, for instance, does not include the informal and self-employment sectors, even though they constitute a majority of the workforce. In Uganda, there is no clear system for tracking employers and available skills in the market, compelling most industries to seek other means to address their labor demands. The Kampala Capita City Employment Bureau outsources employment data mainly through private employment agencies, talent registers, advertising, direct recruitment, head-hunters, and the use of free government platforms such as the National Job Matching Platform. Through individual industry partnerships with training institutions and through internship and attachment opportunities for
learners, they get to know market demands.


Niger Case Study: Labor market information driving curriculum development

Among the six countries covered in the study, Niger most clearly demonstrates how labor market information systems (LMIS) can help align national curricula with the needs of the labor market. In 2012, the country created a job market information system under the National Observatory for Employment and Vocational Training (l’Observatoire National de l’Emploi et de la Formation Professionnelle, ONEF). ONEF makes data available to public and private decisionmakers to improve their understanding of job creation and to align education to the current and future possibilities of the job market. ONEF is regularly called upon to produce labor market data about jobs created, market trends, and other employment-related indicators. Based on this information, the government initiated the work-linked training strategy, which allows students to combine school instruction and practical workplace training.

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This article is based on the findings of a six-country project on Youth Employment and Skills (YES) and the changing nature of work. The project examines education and training systems and their ability to adjust to meet evolving labor demand in light of rapidly evolving digital technologies and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The six countries are Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Niger, Rwanda, and Uganda. The project evaluates the policies, regulations and institutional arrangements aimed at boosting educational outcomes and employment opportunities, especially job creation using innovative education and training initiatives.

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