A 2019 document by the Pathways for Prosperity Commission (Oxford, UK) entitled “The Digital Roadmap: how developing countries can get ahead” points out in rather startling terms the enormous dimension of Africa’s rapidly growing workforce dilemma.”
Africa’s 54 countries are well aware of this dire assessment, and the African Development Bank Group takes the population-growth projection beyond 2030: “Current estimates are that the number of youth will double to 850 million by 2050”. Undaunted and resolute, the Bank explains, “With a youth population bigger than any other continent’s, Africa has a huge asset and a strong competitive advantage … The African Development Bank’s Human Capital Strategy aims to harness the potential of one billion Africans through skills development …”
eLearning Africa 2022 will feature sessions that address skills development from a variety of approaches and in diverse contexts. The following is only a selection of the sessions’ content, offered in the form of quotes from the presenters’ summaries.
“Africa’s various education systems have been challenged to deliver highly skilled people as producers, consumers, and innovators of digital technologies in order to survive and thrive in the digitized global world. Despite education’s acceptance as a universal basic human right, African education systems have continued to struggle to achieve their essential goals, such as providing access to quality education and reducing gender inequality.
There is a need for innovation in the development, delivery, and implementation of education, taking advantage of the digital revolution to build digital capability and reduce the African digital-skills gap. In the context of a 4IR, and with a population whose majority is youthful, Africa’s education systems should build on this precious asset and remodel, harness, empower, and transform its youth into a digitally adaptive, skilled, and innovative workforce. This will permit it to chart its own pathways towards inclusive growth and development – in the words of Calvain Nangue, from Smart Africa, based in the eLearning Africa 2022 host country, Rwanda.
At the School Level, “we need to appreciate the fact that our students today are not the students we were yesterday; they are more connected to the digital world than we can imagine as educators. The initiative has created a generation of learners who are well equipped with 21st-century skills, i.e. students who can easily collaborate, work in teams, have improved communication, and think critically as they solve problems”, says Theode Niyirinda, from Gayaza High School (Uganda).
In Technical and Vocational Education and Training, the initiatives that will be shared at eLearning Africa 2022 are focused on skills that will make TVET students more employable, both to obtain sustainable employment or to start their own business.
Amanda Forbes, from Trinity Education in the US will share how their research will help practitioners and policymakers better determine what types of TVET programming to offer to students in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially with the goal of employability in sight. Special attention will be given to examining the relevance of TVET programs in Sub-Saharan Africa that integrate cutting-edge tech skills, along with examining what other skills (e.g., soft skills, language skills, etc.) students may need in addition to the technology skills to be successful in the job market.
From a Higher Education perspective, we will see how universities are adapting their programmes to prepare future graduates for the job market.
“Access to world-class higher education is recognised as critical to individuals’ career success, and countries’ overall economic growth. Yet a number of barriers remain, including cost, technological access and relevant skills development. By providing tangible examples of how skills-based university degrees, together with solutions to digital access, provide tools the sector can adopt to increase access to the world’s most marginalised communities to achieve university access.” – Mathew Jacobson, from Ducere Global Business School in the US.
“To push forward true progress in a timely fashion, education providers might consider the benefits of tools provided by skillstech (Keevy, 2015). For example, by using machine learning/AI to automatically extract skill information from existing course artifacts, such as syllabi, as well as from job postings, universities can dramatically improve the connection between coursework and employer needs and reduce the time and investment required for manual maintenance of institutionally defined skills taxonomies,” observed Amanda Welsh from Northeastern University in the US.
At the Workplace, “there is growing recognition of the importance of soft skills (such as communication, teamwork, adaptability, and problem solving) for the job market. Possessing these soft skills is considered to be a necessary element for hiring in the marketplace… The development of skills can contribute to structural transformation and economic growth by improving employability and labour productivity that fosters increased competitiveness for countries. Investment in a high-quality workforce can create a virtuous cycle, in which relevant and quality skills enable productivity growth and foreign direct investment. These result in more and better jobs for the current workforce and more public and private investment in the education-and-training system. This, in turn, increases the employability and productivity for both the current and future workforces”, in the words of Adeidunnu Uba, from SimplyUn4gettable in Nigeria.
In the Health Sector, which has been especially affected by the pandemic, most efforts in online training are primarily aimed at upskilling healthcare workers.
“In-service healthcare workers need a cost-effective way to update their knowledge and acquire new skills through eLearning. The National eLearning Platform for Health has enabled healthcare workers to access eLearning content for skills updates, to refresh their knowledge, and to acquire CPD points that allow for re-licensure in professional practice”, says Zabron Abel Mwankupili, from the Tanzanian Training Centre for International Health.
African youth are at the epicentre of most of the conference’s skills-development programmes, and eLearning Africa 2022 will feature speakers such as Hendrina Doroba, from the African Development Bank in Côte d’Ivoire, who will share details of the Coding for Employment Programme. “The African Development Bank’s Coding for Employment programme develops the capacity of African youth by equipping them with practical 21st-century skills, as well as engendering employability and entrepreneurship skills to increase their competitiveness on the local and global labour markets. The programme is a flagship of the Jobs for Youth in Africa strategy (2016-2025). The Coding for Employment Programme consists of placing youth in an immersive ICT environment and linking graduates to a range of employment opportunities.”
Erick Gankam Tambo, from the United Nations University in Germany, “will offer the audience the opportunity to learn from an entrepreneurship curriculum designed to take the specificities of two contexts into account. One is a capacity-building academic programme, which comprises innovation-based research. The other is Tech Hubs, with the support they offer in fostering and ensuring the development of successful start-ups in the smart mini-grid space from ideation in the frame of the programme. Given the ongoing post-Covid-19 context and the ubiquitous need to integrate an online dimension in education, the presentation displays the design of the programme incubator, deployed in a virtual environment. Hence, it affords greater impacts, with participants from across the continent benefiting.”
“The four corners of the classroom are not enough to change learners’ future core skills; it requires the extra curricula skills and one among them is digital skills; therefore, participants will be able to prepare students to become the 21st-century innovators and entrepreneurs. In today’s digital world of innovation, nearly all careers and opportunities require digital communication at some point, so equipping users with the skills to effectively and responsibly find, evaluate, and share online content is key to their future”, says Mahamba Sebastian Ihonde, from Africa ELTA in Tanzania.
Of course, skills development deploying digital learning will also feature prominently in other sessions. Please consult the eLearning Africa 2022 website to discover the agenda and highlights.