The transformation that Africa needs
Source: Unsplash (by Doug Linstedt)
“I see Africa as a dynamic continent of opportunity where winds of hope are blowing even stronger,” remarked the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). As at the hosting of the conference in 2019, African nations had made significant progress in the areas of sustaining growth, strengthening governance, promoting health and education, addressing conflict, promoting gender equality, and accelerating regional integration. Investing in education is particularly key to unlocking Africa’s full potential, but much more work remains to be done in this sector.
Through its youngest innovators, Africa can thrive as new technologies change the world in work, leisure, environment and society. However, this can only materialize if tomorrow’s African population has the skills to succeed in the times to come. There is need for an entrepreneurial and knowledge revolution if the continent is to be able to tackle its most pressing challenges.
Photo: 9 Shrine founded by Afro beats legend Fela Kuti in Lagos. Source: CNN
In July 2018, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, in a visit to Nigeria stated that if Africa’s youngest entrepreneurs were to work hard and innovate, they would change their countries and transform the world. In his words, Africa had to change its narrative, leave its bitter past and move forward. Two years prior to that, in a visit to Lagos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was impressed by the “energy” of Nigeria’s youthful innovators. Yet without education, all this ‘umph’ amounts to nothing.
All African children need to go to school. They need to get education, quality education. Many people are still not learning what they need to thrive now and in the future. By 2050, the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that a third of Africa’s population will lack basic proficiency in math, reading and other subjects. Effectively, the continent risks facing a challenge greater than high levels of unemployment. Africa could end up with an unemployable and unproductive population.
Even good schools have a gap between the skills students need and those they are being taught. An accountancy graduate cannot solve a problem in his professional field when an ethical challenge arises. A civil engineer has perfect grades from his practicals to show, yet since he was never trained in critical thinking, he cannot figure out the perfect infrastructural layouts to serve the various needs of the country’s varied landscapes. As Alvin Toffler puts it, the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
According to the WEF, Africa needs an additional 1 million university-trained researchers to tackle its most pressing health, energy and development challenges. The question of how achievable this is at the moment comes in the wake of a review of doctorate degrees in Kenya, pointing to an example of the toxic porosity of the education system in Africa. Technology in the workplace remains a spectacular evidence of a sip-in of the advancements, unlike in education. Curricular, modes of learning and instruction and teacher quality still lag behind. As the global pandemic runs its course for the second quarter of 2020, online learning remains principal but had to achieve in most African countries. The mobile coverage is significantly high, but the technological systems to support education are mostly lacking.
On the bright side, we are not alone. A 2016 report by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (the Education Commission), by 2030 we will have half of the world’s school age population graduating or dropping out of school without the skills to secure a decent job. Indeed, this is a global learning crisis.
Source: The Education Commission
The biggest obstacle to improved education is financing. Only 10% official development funds education programs in the poor countries, pointing to an urgent need for new approaches to support education. On average the poorest countries spend only 3% of their budgets on education, while middle income countries spend 4%. For a lasting difference, the figure needs to rise to 5-6%. It costs approximately $400 to educate one school-age child in Africa for a year. Is this too much of a sacrifice for a nation?
Bill Gates comments that technology is a tool; in terms of getting children to work together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important. Technology is exciting, in all its forms. Yet it is useless without an educated mind. The transformation that Africa needs is quality wide-spread education worthy of the 21st century advancements.
Written By Ida Mwangi @Noemie(Twitter) @Ida Mwangi (Linkedln)