Education is keeping Africa’s youth out of employment

African Graduates, picture courtesy of

Over the last decade, youths in Africa have become more educated due to universal primary and secondary education, and liberalisation of the university sector. Despite this, there has not been a similar increase in  youth employment. The private sector has not produced enough jobs for the educated youth, and the youth have not learnt the skills that the private sector need.  This double mismatch continues to drive youth employment.

Majority of Africa’s educational systems are still geared towards public sector employment and achieving intellectual magnamity. They are not geared towards the needs of the modern African economy, secondary school children still study irrigation in the prairies but not about the Great Man Made River system in Libya. The lack of facilities for scientific study, and neglect of technical & vocational education has prevented Africa from producing a workforce to drive its own manufacturing and industrial revolution.

Universities are also not educating for African needs.

Only 2% of students in African universities focus on agriculture despite it accounting for 13% of Africa’s GDP.

Relation between GDP and degree courses attained

GDP vs Graduation Courses

A lot of African countries have improved their education standards without the same growth in the private sector to absorb this new talent especially from tertiary institutions. Also to add to that, employers complain that graduates don’t have the skills they need. In South Africa, despite having 800,000 unfilled vacancies, 600,000 graduates remained unemployed, with the main issue being lack of of requisite skills.

As we can see in the diagram above, our universities are producing a surplus of auditors, social workers, sales and communication employers but a shortage of technical personnel, mechanics and electrician. To enable a manufacturing revolution in Africa there is a great need of at least semi-skilled workers to maintain equipment and supervise unskilled workers on the assembly line.

These semi-skilled workers should be produced by vocational sector but this is characterised by  shortage of qualified staff, obsolete equipment, ill-adapted programmes, weak links with job market. Vocational training has been shown to have a much higher return than general secondary education, especially for the  informal sector. Vocational training combined with  internships or apprenticeships, allows young people to apply the theories learnt in class in real environments, to develop professional skills, such as time management and professionalism, and to gain practical experience.

For our education to be in sync with the Africa’s growth they will need to be more interaction with the  private sector in terms of determining curriculum or local firms sponsoring research in universities, build skills in the students and also working together to turn the research findings into a profitable business.

Look out for our next post, where we discuss more potential solutions to educating our youth to develop Africa.

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About Andrew Kwabena

The Editor of MoneyInAfrica


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