Field Stories

Finding NEMA: A New Education Model for Africa

Sealing the deal: The AfDB, Government of Rwanda and the Carnegie Mellon University are embracing NEMA.

Established in 1964, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has provided almost US$100 billion for development projects across the Continent. Corbin Michel Guedegbe, Chief Education Expert at AfDB, spoke to Prue Goredema of the eLearning Africa News Service about the AfDB’s work in establishing a New Education Model for Africa within the context of the Human Capital Development Strategy currently in preparation.

With more than 65% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population aged 25 or below, a sizeable workforce is expected over the coming decades: millions of 15-64 year olds who, with the right skills, could turn the Continent’s economic fortunes around.  Since 2011, the African Development Bank’s Human Capital Development strategy has entailed the adoption of a New Education Model for Africa (NEMA). What is it all about?

Based at AfDB’s Tunis bureau, Corbin Michel Guedegbe serves as Chief Education Expert at the Human Development Department, and he has been involved in the planning and implementation of NEMA.  He explains, “By 2040, Africa will have the world’s largest workforce. Such a youth bulge presents opportunities to reap a demographic dividend, but it also generates social and political pressure. As we saw during the Arab Spring, the youth increasingly have valid demands for employment, empowerment and social inclusion. Their needs must be taken into account, and that is why the AfDB has adopted a Human Capital Development Strategy which encompasses NEMA.”

The strategy is for creating employment, improving the quality of public services, giving citizens more voice and offering them social safety nets in times of economic crisis. Incorporating ICTs into education and training practices is very much at the heart of the NEMA approach, and hence the AfDB’s support for the annual eLearning Africa conference which addresses some of these same issues. NEMA aims to redress the mismatch between skills development and Africa’s labour market.  Guedegbe says, “To date, labour-market programmes have been a novelty in Africa, but now, our new educational model looks at how higher education institutions can adapt their curricula to emphasize the science, technology and entrepreneurship needed to uplift Africa’s bottom line.”

There is no question, argues Guedegbe, that more effort should be channelled into providing the youth with the type of skills that will meet market demands. In the Maghreb, youth unemployment is particularly acute: 18% in Morocco, 24% in Algeria and 31% in Tunisia. Sub-Saharan Africa’s youth unemployment is superficially lower as those who have found work are usually in the informal sector where productivity is low and opportunities for advancement are limited. Most disturbingly, perhaps, is the fact that unemployment rates among those with tertiary qualifications are higher than among those with no education at all!

Guedegbe explains, “As part of NEMA, we are therefore working closely with the African Virtual University (AVU) to establish an educational paradigm typified by a departure from classroom-based education and a move towards increased ICT use.   The AVU has established the largest network of Open Distance and eLearning institutions in over 30 Sub Saharan African countries.”  Whilst narrowing the rural-urban digital divide Continent-wide, countries are also urged to narrow the gender imbalances that characterise many workplaces.

Under NEMA, female students are encouraged to pursue maths and science courses; tertiary institutions must strive to develop new teaching materials, and teacher education modules must adapt to the times. Guedegbe says, “Scholarships were provided to 372 female students to undertake maths, science and ICT programmes. The AVU’s Open Education Resources Initiative, which showcases these gender-sensitive materials, won the first People’s Choice Award for Best Emerging Initiative and the 2011 ‘’ prize.” It is an achievement of which to be proud, but perhaps one of NEMA’s most outstanding contributions thus far has been the rollout of Centres of Excellence Continent-wide.

In 2011, the AfDB approved USD124.3 million in funding for Centres of Excellence in Mali, Rwanda and Uganda. Based on public-private partnerships, these centres allow educational institutions to tap into the experiences, knowledge and financial leverage of the private sector. With the AfDB’s logistical and financial support, the Bamako Digital Complex (USD22 million), Kigali’s Carnegie Mellon University (USD13 million) and the Mulago Teaching Hospital in Kampala (USD 88.8 million) are all adopting NEMA and putting ICTs at the centre of an inclusive, market-oriented approach to education.

Guedegbe says, “Looking at projections for the various socio-economic indices for the next few decades, it’s clear that establishing this New Education Model for Africa is the way forward.”

Photo Credit: AfDB

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