African countries risk violent revolutions by jobless youth in the future unless they reform their education systems in a manner that addresses market needs and creates opportunities.
Besides their low quality, Africa’s education systems do not respond to market demands and have failed to address the existing capacity gaps, which are responsible for the continent’s underdevelopment.

“We can wait for young people to start a revolution because they don’t have skills and opportunities in about 30 or 40 years from now or we can revolutionise our education system now,” Fred Swaniker, CEO and founder African Leadership Academy and African Leadership University, told a conference on harnessing African intellectuals toward quality tertiary and university education in Kigali recently.

Of the 1.2 billion people in Africa, 200 million are aged between 15 and 24 years, and by 2050 when Africa’s population reaches 2.5 billion, they are likely to constitute half the population. This calls for a more reliable and relevant education system to turn this demographic dividend into a tangible resource base to grow the continent.
Analysts say that in the next five decades, there will be more young people in Africa than in all the G20 countries including China, India and Brazil combined. However, if this critical mass is not empowered they will be redundant and become a burden.
Governments and the private sector will need to invest in the continents’ universities to be able to anchor and accelerate the needed growth and development.

“The success of countries and Africa depends on the success of educational institutions,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Earth Institute.

Top 100 varsities

Not a single African university features in the top 100 universities in the world, and only 10 appear in the top 1,000 universities. Eight of these are from just one country — South Africa — yet education is a key catalyst if the continent is to achieve its SDG’s and the African Union Agenda 2063.
The goal of having at least 25 African universities in the top 300 by 2030 is one which officials said is not beyond reach especially if universities, governments and businesses work together. The goal was set at a conference organised by the Sustainable Development Goals Centre for Africa (SDGC/A) in Kigali.
Many of Africa’s graduates are limited to theories and are said to lack practical skills needed to create jobs and spur industrialisation, which has led to an ever burgeoning mass of job seekers — a condition that is predicted to choke Africa in the coming years.

“Capacity gaps are partly responsible for the low industrialisation in Africa. Over $4 billion is spent on foreign experts in Africa every year and this needs to be reversed,” said Belay Begashaw, the director-general of SDGC/A.

Brain drain

It was noted that the world over no university is self-sufficient and they all depend on external support in the form of donations and alumni networks. African universities need to implement the same approach by intensifying their financial mobilisation mechanisms.
The high levels of brain drain that Africa has suffered for many decades have also been partly blamed for the stagnated quality of its education, as skilled professionals who would innovate in their respective fields and also add value to the continent’s education system, end up going elsewhere for greener pastures.

Since the 1990’s over 20,000 trained professionals in various specialised fields have been leaving Africa every year for Europe, USA and other foreign countries.

“The critical mass and human capital Africa needs will only be reached if Africa invests in its education,” said President Paul Kagame.

He said that although Africa has worked hard to stimulate the demand for quality education and to expand its reach, a lot more needs to be done.
Experts in the education sector from across the continent faulted the “iniquitous” ranking system which seems to favour universities in the developed world. They said that focusing on getting on the list could hinder African universities from creating an education system that responds to the real needs of its people.

“If all we do is aspire to get global rankings we are likely to be limited to what we contextually need to achieve in terms of an education that responds to the needs of our people and our development,” said Dr Swaniker.

Source: The East African|| By Moses K. Gahigi

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