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Economic transformation demands a healthy workforce equipped with the knowledge and skills to be highly productive in the workplace and to generate innovations in technologies, processes, products, and services. As chapter 3 shows, Sub-Saharan Africa will, by 2050, be among the regions with the largest and youngest labor force in the world. This young and growing workforce can be a global competitive advantage and a great asset in driving economic transformation—if it is healthy and has the right skills. Or it could be a drag on growth and a threat to social and political stability. This chapter discusses approaches that Sub-Saharan countries may use to upgrade the skills of their labor force to drive economic transformation.
Sub-Saharan Africa has made good progress in the past two decades providing access to primary education and is now close to other regions in gross enrollments. But at the secondary and tertiary levels it lags far behind. And quality is a challenge at all levels. At the secondary and tertiary levels there is inadequate emphasis on the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) needed for today’s technologically oriented global economy. Nor is there enough attention to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and to links with business. The results: although only a small fraction of the population has attained secondary and tertiary education, the region faces a growing problem of educated but unemployed youth—reflecting challenges on both the supply and demand sides of skills.